Taiwan mayor loses recall vote in blow for pro-China opposition

Taiwan mayor loses recall vote in blow for pro-China opposition
A high-profile mayor from Taiwan's main opposition party lost an acrimonious recall vote on Saturday, auguring new problems for the party that is already reeling from losing January elections on the back of strong anti-China sentiment.

The Kuomintang (KMT) was badly beaten in January's presidential and parliamentary polls. Since then, under a youthful new leader, Johnny Chiang, the party has tried to rethink its unpopular policy of seeking closer ties with China, which claims Taiwan as part of its territory.

The KMT's presidential candidate, Han Kuo-yu, had won the mayorship of the southern city of Kaohsiung in late 2018, an upset given it had previously been a stronghold for Taiwan's ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). But he faced sustained criticism that he lacked interest in the city, especially when he took a three-month leave of absence from his new mayoral duties to run for president. Saturday's vote was on whether he should be recalled as mayor.

Han, who had called on people to boycott the vote and go shopping instead, told reporters after the vote went against him that he had been the victim of DPP smears, though did not say whether he would challenge the result in court.

"This was an unfair, unjust election," Han said.

The DPP said in a statement the election proved that power comes from the people and called it an "important milestone in the history of Taiwan's democratic development".

KMT Chairman Chiang said the party respected the result, and expressed "remorse" that it went against them.

"We did not properly grasp the warmth of Kaohsiung's citizens, and we did not respond well to the expectations of Kaohsiung's people," he said.

As of 6pm local time (10:00 GMT) on Saturday, the city election commission said more than 900,000 people voted for Han to be recalled, against some 25,000 who voted against the recall. Read...

James Koroma

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