Kaohsiung mayor takes leave for presidential campaign

KAOHSIUNG (CNA) — Kaohsiung Mayor Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜) announced Tuesday that he will take a three-month leave of absence to campaign for the presidency, effective Oct. 16.

With 87 days left before the Jan. 11 presidential and legislative polls, Han decided to take time off to fully engage in his presidential campaign to boost his chances of winning the race.

This means he will not be present at hearings of the Kaohsiung City Council and will not submit the city’s budget to the council for review in person.

Han said he will start his nationwide campaign from southern Taiwan and will seek to bring hope and warmth to all of the country and rebuild Taiwan’s glory.

Hundreds of Han supporters gathered at the plaza in front of the city government’s offices, chanting slogans and holding placards to support him as Han made the announcement inside the building.

Han will represent the major opposition Kuomintang (KMT) in the presidential race and face incumbent President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) head-to-head if a third candidate does not emerge.

Tsai has held a comfortable, often double-digit lead over Han in multiple public opinion polls in recent months after rebounding from the DPP’s major defeat in elections for local government offices in November 2018.

While Han takes his leave of absence, Deputy Mayor Yeh Kuang-shih (葉匡時) will head the city government in Han’s place.

In contrast to Han’s enthusiastic backers, DPP city councilors have accused Han of failing to honor his promises to Kaohsiung citizens and of being incompetent.

Yen Juo-fang (顏若芳), a spokesperson for Tsai’s campaign, criticized Han for defying Kaohsiung citizens to pursue a presidential bid.

She also criticized his support of the “1992 consensus,” which the KMT has defined as the foundation for cross-Taiwan Strait relations. The consensus asserts that there is only one China, with different interpretations of what that means, and implies Taiwan is a part of China.

Yen argued that Han was going against the mainstream view in Taiwan by embracing the consensus, which she said would trap Taiwan in Beijing’s “one country, two systems” unification formula.

By Flor Wang and Wang Shu-fen