On Sunday, voters in Taipei’s fifth electoral district and Taichung’s second electoral district will be going to the polls.
The former will be voting on a recall motion for independent Legislator Freddie Lim (林昶佐); the latter in a by-election to fill the vacancy left by former Taiwan Statebuilding Party legislator Chen Po-wei (陳柏惟), who was ousted in the same recall drive — part of a political strategy being pursued by the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) — that threatens Lim.
Searching for a legitimate reason for Lim’s recall is futile. He has been a hard-working lawmaker who, among other things, sits on the legislature’s Foreign and National Defense Committee, as did Chen before his recall.
Neither has Lim been involved in any scandal or been accused of any wrongdoing that would warrant a recall. If he had, the KMT would have used these to its full advantage.
It had been clear from the recall drive against independent Kaohsiung City Councilor Huang Jie (黃捷), which Fongshan District (鳳山) constituents rejected on Feb. 7 last year, that the KMT is not interested in holding wayward elected officials to account, but is more interested in manipulating recalls for its own political interest.
Some commentators, looking either for an internal logic to the KMT’s targeting of Chen and Lim or a point of attack against the recalls, suggested that the motivation behind the strategy was to remove them from the legislative committee, and thereby even up the proportion of pan-blue and pan-green committee members.
Even with Chen and Lim gone, leaving only Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and KMT members on the committee, the DPP would still have a majority of 6:5, and the allotment would change in the next legislative session anyway, again in the DPP’s favor.
For the KMT to have gone through all this trouble over such an extended period for a tiny window with even a parity on the committee would not have been worthwhile.
Another motivation behind the KMT’s strategy is the weakening of the “oppose the Chinese Communist Party [CCP], safeguard Taiwan” proponents in the legislature.
Chen was easier pickings, because he lacked the support of a major party and contended with the combined forces of the KMT, the CCP and the influential Yen (顏) family in Taichung — one of whom, Yen Kuan-heng (顏寬恒), is contesting Sunday’s by-election. Lim is independent, and so the DPP can, and has, stepped in to offer its support and resources.
Weakening the “oppose the CCP, safeguard Taiwan” element does not account for the attempt to oust Huang: Her situation was genuinely a retributive recall because of her perceived role in the downfall of former Kaohsiung mayor Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜).
However, the KMT’s subsequent retributive recall strategy grew out of the attempt on Huang’s position as the party realized it could exploit the mechanism.
One thing that does unite Huang, Chen and Lim, as well as former DPP Taoyuan City councilor Wang Hao-yu (王浩宇), who was recalled in January last year, is their youth, and their appeal to the younger electorate. It is to the KMT’s advantage that it hobbles the appeal to young people of the pan-green camp, since it seems unwilling to expend the effort to court the younger vote itself.
The recall mechanism is designed to give power back to local constituents, but it has been hijacked for parties’ national political strategies.
Now it has been revealed as an effective instrument, it is reasonable to believe that any major political party in opposition would seek to leverage it.
It is time to amend the Civil Servants Election and Recall Act (公職人員選舉罷免法) to establish more robust criteria to ensure the reasons for initiating a recall proposal are legitimate.
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