Civil groups submit 30,000 signatures to begin recall action against Kaohsiung mayor

First ever recall initiative against mayor of a Taiwanese special municipality began Dec. 26

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Boxes of petition signatures supporting Han's impeachment piled at CEC.

Boxes of petition signatures supporting Han's impeachment piled at CEC. (CNA photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — One day after Kaohsiung Mayor Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜) marked the first anniversary of his taking office, civil groups initiated a recall action, the first ever against the mayor of one of the country’s special municipalities, on Thursday (Dec. 26) by submitting 30,000 signatures to the Central Election Commission (CEC).

Chen Kuan-jung (陳冠榮), the former leader of the 2014 Kaohsiung gas explosion self-help group, is the leading petitioner of the recall. At a press conference Thursday morning, he said opinion polls showed that Kaohsiung voters’ dissatisfaction toward their city’s administration had consistently been the highest among the six special municipalities in Taiwan but that the mayor, who is currently on leave for his presidential campaign, had chosen to dismiss public opinion.

Han began mulling his presidential bid less than four months after he took office last December, said Chen. Since Han took leave from office in late October, he has left Kaohsiung city affairs behind, and all the promises he made during the mayoral race have become lies, Chen stated.

Chen also criticized Han for remarks considered by many to be discriminatory against women and minorities. For example, Han once referred to Filipina workers in Taiwan as “Maria,” a derogatory term sometimes used to describe female domestic workers from the Philippines, prompting Angelito Banayo, head of the Philippines Representative Office in Taiwan, to lodge a protest against the mayor.

Chen attributed the “Han Wave,” which refers to Han’s ability to generate massive media attention in the run-up to the 2018 November mayoral elections, to an “unusual pro-China media influence in elections.” He added that only by proceeding with the recall action against Han could the situation be remedied.

In addition to Chen, the initiators of the recall action include Aaron Yin (尹立), founder of Wecare Kaohsiung, which organized the anti-Han march last Saturday (Dec. 21) that saw an estimated 500,000 people take to the streets. The non-profit Citizens Mowing Action and pro-independence Taiwan Statebuidling Party are also primary initiators.

Yin emphasized that recalling the mayor was not about personal or party interests, though Han, while presenting his platform at a televised forum on Wednesday (Dec. 25), suggested Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) involvement in Saturday’s anti-Han rally. Yin, a former public servant in the Kaohsiung City Government, called for a sense of unity among the city’s residents in the effort to remove Han from the seat.

However, a strenuous and time-consuming process remains before such a recall can be put to a vote. After the submission of the required 30,000 signatures, the CEC will hand them over to the Kaohsiung City Election Commission (KCEC) for review.

The KCEC will determine within 25 days whether all the signatures are valid and announce the launch of the second stage of the process. The initiators will then have to collect nearly 230,000 signatures within 60 days.

If the KCEC, within 40 days, confirms that the signatures collected in the second stage have passed the threshold, it will declare the establishment of the recall case and hold a vote within 60 days.

Should the recall be passed, ballots cast in favor of removing Han must outnumber those opposed. Their total number should also surpass one-third of the voter turnout in the last mayoral election.

Despite having confidence in initiators’ ability to gather 230,000 signatures to reach the second stage, Yin expressed concern that the entire recall process could encounter unfair treatment considering that the KCEC is chaired by Han or a deputy mayor and that the members of the commission were all appointed by the mayor himself.