Will the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and the Kaohsiung City Government succeed in saving Kaohsiung Mayor Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜) from being recalled? If not, it will not be for want of trying.
The initial sally was an attempt to have the recall motion declared invalid by the courts. That failed after the Taipei High Administrative Court on April 17 threw out attorney Yeh Ching-yuan’s (葉慶元) request for an injunction against the vote om June 6.
The next ploy sought to shield Han from facing city councilors who supported the recall by postponing a May 20 question-and-answer session until after the vote — ostensibly in the interest of focusing on the city’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
On Monday, when the mayor was faced with questions on the city’s virus response, a vote by the KMT-majority city council limited the time allotted to questions. The motion also limited questions to party caucuses and unaffiliated councilors so that councilors from smaller parties, such as the New Power Party (NPP), were initially kept from challenging Han.
Eventually, NPP Kaohsiung City councilors Lin Yu-kai (林于凱) and Huang Jie (黃捷) were allowed a few minutes each to pose questions.
Huang asked whether Han would retract his advice to schools that they only allocate two classrooms apiece for polling stations — considered another ruse to suppress the vote.
As she finished asking her question, a bell rang, and Kaohsiung City Council Speaker Lu Shu-mei (陸淑美) of the KMT said that her time was up and told the mayor to submit his answer in writing or to address it later in a news conference.
Huang said that the KMT’s attempts to protect the mayor were not a good look — she was right. The city government seems to be big on bad optics.
Kaohsiung Information Bureau Director-General Cheng Chao-hsin (鄭照新), one of Han’s closest aides, on Tuesday held a news conference with Kaohsiung Environmental Protection Bureau (KEPB) Deputy Director Wu Chia-an (吳家安), Kaohsiung Police Department Deputy Commissioner Chen Shu-tien (陳書田), Kaohsiung Transportation Bureau Chief Secretary Huang Jung-hui (黃榮輝) and Kaohsiung Bureau of Building Affairs Director Chiang Chun-chang (江俊昌). The five of them referred to themselves as the “May Day task force,” formed to refute any anti-Han “distortions.”
They addressed suspicions that pro-recall posters in the city were being removed by the KEPB for purely partisan reasons.
Wu said that the posters were illegal and that the KEPB had similarly removed illegal pro-Han posters — although Aaron Yin (尹立), founder of Wecare Kaohsiung, the group behind the recall petition, said that the actions had been suspiciously “selective.”
The five said that bans against pro-recall ads on transportation were to stop the spread of disinformation, while a ban on handing out anti-Han flyers was to “avoid traffic disruptions.”
Even if their justifications are warranted, having these officials standing on stage with one mission in mind — protecting the mayor — looked a little too coordinated.
Online commentators reacted angrily, claiming that the city government had formed a large rumor mill of its own. One comment used a Yuan Dynasty-era play reference to snow in May, meaning that people had been treated unjustly.
If the comments represent the reactions of eligible voters already angry with Han, the “May Day task force” was not going to persuade anyone, and might have had the opposite effect.
Voters have for too long been bombarded with misinformation and manipulated in the buildup to elections. They are well aware “what time of day it is.”
The KMT would be best advised not to treat Kaohisung residents as fools.
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