Vice premier pitched as DPP candidate for Kaohsiung mayoral election

Vice Premier Chen Chi-mai

TAIPEI (CNA) — Vice Premier Chen Chi-mai (陳其邁) is being touted as the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) candidate for the upcoming mayoral by-election in Kaohsiung after Kuomintang (KMT) mayor Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜) was recalled in a vote held Saturday.

Both DPP lawmaker Kuan Bi-ling (管碧玲) and Hsu Chih-chieh (許智傑) told CNA that judging from Chen’s high popularity in Kaohsiung and strong grassroots support, the vice premier, a Kaohsiung native, who has a solid administrative background, would be an ideal candidate to represent the party in the election.

Kuan and Hsu said the ruling party should directly call on Chen to serve as the party’s candidate without holding a primary as selecting a candidate this way will demonstrate party unity.

Han was ousted through a recall vote in which 939,090 Kaohsiung voters voted for his removal, much higher than the 574,996 required, the legal threshold representing 25 percent of Kaohsiung’s eligible voters, with a turnout of 42.14 percent.

Under the election law in Taiwan, the Central Election Commission is expected to hold a by-election by Sept. 12 at the latest after Han’s removal.

Chen served as a three-term legislator from the southern city before 2004 and was a two-term legislator-at-large before the mayoral election in November 2018, where he lost in a shock defeat to Han, in a city the DPP had run for more than two decades.

After the defeat by Han in the mayoral election, Chen was appointed vice premier in January 2019.

At a time when the COVID-19 pandemic sent ripples across the globe, Chen, who was a doctor before entering politics, was tapped to be one of the key officials in the Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) administration to lead efforts to combat the disease in Taiwan.

Some in the DPP had been urging Chen to stand as the DPP candidate if a new election was called, even before the recall vote was held.

In response to the recall vote, Chen said politicians must retain the trust of the electorate or the voters will take back the power they give them, although he did not say whether he plans to represent the party.

Chen said the recall vote in Kaohsiung demonstrated the value of democracy as the people made an important decision for themselves.

Chao Tien-lin (趙天麟), another DPP lawmaker, who was elected as the head of the DPP’s branch in Kaohsiung, said he supports Chen’s candidacy, adding that as leader of the ruling party in the city, he will mobilize everyone to campaign for the vice premier in the upcoming election.

For his part, DPP lawmaker Lo Chih-cheng (羅致政) said the party should avoid provoking Han’s fans after the recall vote, otherwise the KMT could boycott bills proposed by the ruling party in the Legislative Yuan and undermine cross-party cooperation.

Commenting on Chen’s possible candidacy, New Power Party (NPP) Chairman Hsu Yung-ming (徐永明) said the party would support a non-KMT candidate in the election and if Chen represents the DPP he would likely win the NPP’s support.

Meanwhile, sources from the KMT appeared downbeat about the election after Han’s ouster, adding that the party has not yet decided on a candidate for the election.

The Taiwan People’s Party, another minority party, has expressed a willingness to work with other minority parties to support an independent candidate in the election.