TAIPEI (CNA) — Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜), the presidential candidate of the main opposition Kuomintang (KMT), called for unity and stressed the value of Taiwan’s democratic system after conceding defeat Saturday night.
Han, who was projected by polls to lose by a wide margin, garnered 5.52 million votes, or 38.61 percent of the total, far behind the 8.17 million votes (57.13 percent) cast for incumbent President Tsai-Ing wen (蔡英文) of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).
The third candidate, James Soong (宋楚瑜) of the People First Party (PFP), garnered 608,590 votes, or 4.26 percent, according to the Central Election Commission.
Speaking at KMT headquarters in Kaohsiung after his defeat, Han emphasized the value of Taiwan’s democratic election system.
“Taiwan’s democracy, freedom and rule of law are the most valuable treasures we have. Since the people of the Republic of China have made their decision, as candidates, we will definitely obey the results of the election,” Han said.
Han encouraged his supporters to continue to work hard at their respective posts, saying “No matter what, when we wake up tomorrow, we still want to see a united Taiwan.”
He also urged Tsai to work hard over the next four years so that the Taiwanese people can live and work in peace and contentment.
As for his future, Han said he will return to work at Kaohsiung City Hall on Monday to fulfill his duties as mayor.
Han, 62, began his political career as a legislator from 1993 to 2002. After several minor political appointments and a failed bid for KMT chairmanship, he rose to fame when he ran in the mayoral election in Kaohsiung in late 2018.
Though initially seen as an underdog, Han successfully mobilized supporters with his “man of the people” image and with the populist slogan: “Make Money, Get Rich,” setting in motion what has been dubbed a “Han wave” across the country.
He eventually won his mayoral race by a surprising 9-point margin, ending the DPP’s 20-year-long rule in the biggest city in southern Taiwan.
During his presidential run, Han employed the same populist playbook, with his campaign portraying him as speaking for the “common men and women” of Taiwan who want nothing more than for “Taiwan to be safe” and for “people to get rich.”
His campaign was hurt, however, by his involvement in buying luxury properties, which tarnished his everyman image, rumors of extramarital affairs, and his party’s pro-China image.
Han was also criticized for expressing interest in running for the presidency mere months after assuming his duties as Kaohsiung mayor, and his decision to take a three-month leave from office to focus on campaigning.
Kaohsiung residents dissatisfied with Han’s performance as mayor have already initiated a petition to recall him, which could lead to a recall vote later this year.
Meanwhile, James Soong of the PFP said in his conception speech Saturday that while he lost the election, he has successfully conveyed to the country his core messages that Taiwan should handle the cross-Taiwan Strait relations very carefully and heal the divisiveness among its citizens.