Kaohsiung residents' hopes high after Taiwan's first mayoral by-election

Second time's the charm for Chen Chi-mai after unpopular predecessor's recall vote

Chen Chi-mai celebrates landslide victory in Kaohsiung's mayoral by-election.

Chen Chi-mai celebrates landslide victory in Kaohsiung's mayoral by-election. (Taiwan News photo)

KAOHSIUNG (Taiwan News) — After Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) candidate and former Vice Premier Chen Chi-mai (陳其邁) handily defeated his opponent, Kuomintang (KMT) City Councilor Li Mei-jhen (李眉蓁) in Saturday's (Aug. 15) by-election to decide the next mayor of Kaohsiung, many residents of the southern port city hope that he will change course.

Chen lost his first mayoral bid to former mayor Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜), the populist KMT candidate who swept to an upset victory in the traditionally deep green metropolis in 2018. Han, who mounted an unsuccessful bid for Taiwanese president less than a year after being elected mayor, was voted out of office in June in the country's first-ever mayoral recall.

(Taiwan News photo)

After casting his vote at a polling site on Gushan District's Meishu E. 2nd Road, a doctor in his 30s surnamed Lin (林) said he hopes the new mayor will be more proactive than his predecessor in further developing the city on the environmental, economic, and medical fronts. He stated that "The last mayor — he could do almost nothing in his job, so I want to choose another one who can perform his duties."

After Chen's victory rally, a Kaohsiung couple in their 30s, surnamed Liu (劉), expressed hopes that the incoming administration will see to the city's transportation infrastructure and industry. In particular, Mrs. Liu said she would like the MRT system to be expanded beyond the existing Red and Orange lines and Circular light rail, while her husband added that he hopes the Ciaotou Science and Technology Park will be developed further.

(Taiwan News photo)

One woman in her 20s surnamed Chang (張), a Taichung native working in the bio-medical industry, told Taiwan News that the election had buoyed her hopes. Chang was a volunteer in the lead-up to the referendum in 2018, when the DPP was handed devastating losses and Han defeated Chen.

She said that at the time, this led her to wonder if Taiwanese had chosen to embrace traditional values and that after Han's victory, and she lost hope about the country's future. She said she has gradually seen a sea change among the Taiwanese public during Hong Kong's anti-extradition protests last year, which were widely attributed with helping President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) secure her second term in the January election.

She added: "As long as we try, we still can elect the candidate we want. [Compared to Hong Kong] Taiwan is still a democratic country that functions well. It's an honor for me to witness this historical moment; it's an honor for me to live during this time."

(Taiwan News photo)