Kaohsiung Mayor Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜) of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) today faces a recall vote, nearly 18 months after he began his four-year term at the end of December 2018.
Han, the mayor of the third-largest of the six special municipalities in terms of population, is the first special municipality head to face a recall election, according to the Central Election Commission (CEC) data.
However, it is not the first time that Han has been under the threat of a recall.
In 1994, environmental groups tried to initiate a recall of Han, along with then-KMT lawmakers Hung Hsiu-chu (洪秀柱), Chan Yu-jen (詹裕仁) and Lin Chih-chia (林志嘉), for supporting the construction of the now-mothballed Fourth Nuclear Power Plant. That campaign fizzled out after failing to gather enough signatures.
Han in September 2017 arrived in Kaohsiung to lead the KMT’s local branch, and in November 2018 ran as its mayoral candidate, winning the election with 892,545 votes, or 53.86 percent, in a four-candidate race, in a shocking victory over the Democratic Progressive Party, which had run the city for two decades.
Han in July last year won the KMT presidential primary, and ran unsuccessfully in the presidential election on Jan. 11.
In June last year, an online campaign was launched to collect signatures to start a recall of Han — for running for president just months after he took office as mayor.
The CEC in April verified public endorsements for the recall petition, and announced that the recall election would be held today.
According to Kaohsiung City Election Commission data, there are 2,299,981 eligible voters in the city.
Per Article 90 of the Civil Servants Election and Recall Act (公職人員選舉罷免法), for the recall motion to pass, at least 25 percent of eligible voters — or 574,996 people — must vote in favor of the measure and the number of people voting for it must exceed the number voting against it.
The Kaohsiung Police Department yesterday said that it expected to mobilize 6,900 police officers to maintain order during the election, with the National Police Agency sending 1,400, instead of the 500 it had planned, to help.
If the recall passes, Han would have 15 days to lodge a complaint against any potential illegalities he perceives in the voting process, the Ministry of the Interior said.
Article 92-2 of the act prohibits campaigners from initiating another recall vote against Han before his term expires if the one today fails to pass, a ministry official who requested anonymity said.
If the measure passes, the CEC would announce the result of the vote within seven days and hold a Kaohsiung mayoral by-election within 30 days, in accordance with the act, the official said.
If Han is recalled, he would not be allowed to run for Kaohsiung mayor again for four years, and his post would be taken over by an acting mayor appointed by the Executive Yuan until a new mayor is elected, ministry sources said.
All Kaohsiung deputy mayors and other municipal officials of the 13th, and second-highest, pay grade that Han appointed must also resign with him, they said.
Han would be relieved of his duties as soon as the result is announced, but would have 15 days from the announcement of the result to file a complaint against the recall vote if he deems it unlawful and believes it should be annulled, they said.
Han would then have to present evidence of vote-buying or other illegalities in the vote-counting process that could have tilted it against him, they said.
The Kaohsiung District Court and the Taiwan High Court’s Kaohsiung branch must finish reviewing the lawsuit and issue a final ruling in six months, they said, adding that the Supreme Court is not mandated to review such a case.
If the High Court rules in his favor, Han would reclaim his position as Kaohsiung mayor, they said.
However, if Han chose to file a lawsuit, it would not necessarily work to the party’s advantage, as a by-election might then have to be put on hold for six months, by which time there would be less than two years left until the next Kaohsiung mayoral election, they said.
In this scenario, the Executive Yuan could invoke Article 82 of the Local Government Act (地方制度法), which would close the window for a by-election and allow the acting mayor it appointed to serve out what would have been the remainder of Han’s term, they said.
However, there is not yet a definite conclusion as to whether the remainder of Han’s term should start from the day he is recalled or when a final ruling on the legality of the vote is issued, as there are no precedents, they said.
Additional reporting by CNA
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