The results of a legislative by-election for Taichung’s second electoral district and a recall vote in Taipei’s fifth electoral district on Sunday were announced on the day.
The Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) candidate, Lin Ching-yi (林靜儀), won the by-election, while independent Legislator Freddy Lim (林昶佐), despite having more people vote in favor of his recall than against it, survived, as the number of voters fell short of the threshold.
For the past year or so, the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) has instigated four retributive recalls and instigated one by-election. Looking at the results alone, two of the recalls — of former DPP Taoyuan city councilor Wang Hao-yu (王浩宇) and former Taiwan Statebuilding Party legislator Chen Po-wei (陳柏惟) — were successful, while the other two — of independent Kaohsiung City Councilor Huang Jie (黃捷) and Lim — failed.
What these figures fail to convey is that after the huge social cost in terms of effort, money and material resources, Wang and Chen temporarily lost their seats in the legislature, while the DPP gained a seat.
Meanwhile, the hapless KMT, which put so much effort and resources into the recall drives, has not only suffered defeats, but faces the embarrassment of being exposed over its inability to decouple itself from corrupt local interests.
The KMT’s recalls against Wang and Huang had nothing to do with the ability of the officials to do their jobs, and the fact that neither recall would have led to a legislative by-election demonstrated their vindictive nature.
Wang did not call on the DPP — which he had joined less than a year previously — to support him, neither did he call on his supporters vote against his recall.
These decisions contributed to his ouster.
Wang’s recall significantly boosted the confidence of the KMT, which had initiated the recall motion.
It also made the DPP sense a whiff of danger.
As a result, the DPP’s presence was felt in the campaigns to prevent the subsequent recalls from succeeding, even though the objects of those drives — Huang, Chen and Lim — were either independent or belonged to a small political party.
The recall campaigns became a contest between the governing party and the opposition, and Huang averted disaster while Lim emerged unscathed, the vote count notwithstanding.
Chen’s defeat can largely be understood as a result of local power politics.
Although the KMT got its face bloodied in the Taichung by-election, the biggest losers by far were the political figures in the Yen (顏) family.
Yen Kuan-heng (顏寬恒), the KMT’s candidate, not only lost, but a string of scandals involving real-estate holdings and allegedly illegal construction by himself and members of his family were unearthed during the election campaign.
It is difficult to see any positive outcomes from the pan-blue camp’s recall drive, save for the true nature of the Yen family being exposed and the possibility that the political shenanigans will expedite the end of this pernicious force.
Chang Kuo-tsai is a retired associate professor at National Hsinchu University of Education.
Translated by Paul Cooper
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