Petition to recall Han passes second stage, vote likely in June

CNA file photo

KAOHSIUNG (CNA) — The number of signatures submitted in a petition to recall Kaohsiung Mayor Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜) has passed the required threshold for the second stage of the recall process, which could lead to a recall vote in June.

A total of 377,662 signatures out of 406,880 submitted were confirmed as valid, higher than the required minimum of 228,134 for the petition, the city’s deputy mayor and election commission chief Chen Hsiung-wen (陳雄文) said.

The signatures will be sent to the Central Election Commission (CEC) for approval on Wednesday, he added.

Meanwhile, the CEC said it will hold a meeting on April 17 to verify the signatures.

Once the CEC confirms the collected signatures as having passed the threshold for the second stage of the process, it is required to hold a recall vote within 60 days under the Civil Servants Election and Recall Act, which is likely to take place in late June.

In order for the result to be valid, at least 25 percent of voters — about 580,000 in Kaohsiung — have to vote.

Asked to comment, Kaohsiung city spokesman Cheng Chao-hsin (鄭照新) said the city government respects the decision by the election commission but the mayor will continue to focus on running the city and combating the COVID-19 pandemic to protect the welfare of its citizens.

Aaron Yin (尹立) head of the Kaohsiung City Culture Bureau from 2016-2018 under the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) administration of Chen Chu founded the pro-recall organization WeCare Kaohsiung shortly after Han took office as Kaohsiung Mayor in January 2019.

Yin previously said a number of civic groups decided to jointly launch the recall signature drive in December 2019 because “Han has turned his back on Kaohsiung’s citizens.”

He was referring to the fact that Han joined the presidential race representing the main opposition Kuomintang (KMT) less than six months into his mayoral term, and that he had failed to prioritize running the city.

Han lost to incumbent President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) of the DPP by more than 2 million votes or a 19-percent margin, in the Jan. 11 presidential election.

Under the Civil Servants Election and Recall Act, the first stage in the three-stage recall process is to submit a proposal containing the signatures of 1 percent of the constituency’s eligible voters.

In the case of Kaohsiung’s estimated 2.28 million eligible voters, that comes to 22,800 signatures, which the pro-recall groups collected and passed to the CEC for review on Jan. 17.

In the second stage, the recall initiators have 60 days to collect the signatures of 10 percent of the eligible voters in Kaohsiung, or around 228,000 people.

The previously collected signatures are not considered valid in this stage of the process, according to the act.

The recall initiators ultimately managed to collect more than 550,000 signatures in 40 days. They sent around 400,000 signatures to the city’s election commission for approval on March 7.

Meanwhile, the opposition KMT on Tuesday asked how it was possible pro-recall groups collected around 30,000 signatures on Dec. 26, one day after Han marked his first year in office as mayor.

Citing article 75 of the Civil Servants Election and Recall Act, KMT lawmaker Chen Yu-jen (陳玉珍) said no recall proposal may be filed against a civil servant who has not been in the position for one year.

In other words, the fact the pro-recall groups were able to collect such a large number of signatures only one day after Han marked his one-year-anniversary in office means they had long been preparing to recall him, Chen said.

He urged the CEC to probe the matter to determine whether the groups violated the act during the recall process.

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