TAIPEI (CNA) — Former Vice Premier Chen Chi-mai (陳其邁) of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) easily won the mayoral by-election in Kaohsiung on Saturday, helping the DPP achieve its goal of taking the city back from the opposition Kuomintang (KMT).
The by-election was held after a recall vote in early June to remove the KMT’s Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜), who won the election in November 2018 and ended the DPP’s 20-year hold on the city.
Chen lost the 2018 race by a 9 percent margin, but after Saturday’s victory, he will serve out the remainder of the term, which ends in December 2022.
Before the by-election, President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文), who doubles as the DPP Chairwoman, urged the party’s members to unite behind Chen to bring back “the glory of Kaohsiung.”
Chen, who was the big favorite to win the race in the DPP-leaning city, garnered 671,804 votes, or 70.03 percent of the total, topping the KMT’s Li Mei-jhen (李眉蓁) and the Taiwan People’s Party’s (TPP’s) Wu Yi-jheng (吳益政), who won 25.90 percent and 4.06 percent of the vote, respectively.
Both Li and Wu are incumbent Kaohsiung city councilors. Wu represented the TPP even though he is also a member of the People First Party.
According to the Central Election Commission, the percentage of votes garnered by Chen was the highest in Kaohsiung’s mayoral elections, beating former DPP mayor Chen Chu’s (陳菊) 68.08 percent in the 2014 race.
Among the 38 electoral districts in Kaohsiung, Chen scored an overwhelming victory against his rivals in 35 districts, the commission’s tally showed.
The data also indicated that Chen accounted for 68.19 percent and 71.74 percent of the total votes cast in Fongshan and Sanmin, the two largest districts in the city, respectively, which helped him gain the upper hand in the election.
Saturday’s voter turnout stood at 41.83 percent, according to the commission.
“After today’s election, I think people in Kaohsiung will unite to make the city better, regardless of who they voted for,” Chen told his cheering supporters in his acceptance speech.
“The election is the beginning of new hope for Kaohsiung,” said Chen, who promised to reorganize the Kaohsiung government to include all talent, regardless of their political affiliations.
“I will maximize the DPP’s political value to build a clean government and move the city forward,” Chen said.
Speaking in front of many of his supporters who braved the rain for hours outside his campaign headquarters to hear him speak, Chen laid out his plans for improving Kaohsiung.
He outlined four priorities — upgrade the city’s industries, add new jobs, improve transportation infrastructure and ensure cleaner air.
Chen urged all of Kaohsiung’s citizens to closely supervise the new city government.
He also expressed gratitude to Li and Wu, saying the two rivals showed their democratic spirits during the election campaign although they belonged to different political parties.
Li and Wu, meanwhile, congratulated Chen on his victory in the election.
Li expressed hope that Chen will solve the problem of Kaohsiung’s large debt, adding that the city also needs a larger population and new investment to take back its title as the second-largest city in Taiwan.
The mayor-elect is scheduled to assume his position by the end of August, according to local election rules.
Chen, 55, was a four-term DPP lawmaker, and served as acting Kaohsiung mayor from February to September 2005 after then Mayor Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) of the DPP left the post to serve as premier.
Chen served as vice premier starting from January 2019 before he tendered his resignation in mid-June to take part in the mayoral by-election.
He first got into politics when he served as an assistant to his father, who was a legislator.
His first political race was in 1995 when, at the age of 30, he was elected as one of six legislators to represent Kaohsiung’s first electoral district, becoming the youngest legislator ever in Taiwan.
In 2004, Chen was named minister without portfolio by then Premier Yu Shyi-kun (游錫堃) under the Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) administration before serving as acting Kaohsiung mayor a year later.
Before serving as vice premier, Chen held several other political posts, including deputy secretary general of the Presidential Office, whip of the DPP’s legislative caucus and deputy secretary general and spokesman of the Executive Yuan.
As for Han, his decision to jump into the 2020 race for the presidency just months after taking office and his own missteps fed a persistent effort by DPP city councilors and others to bring him down, resulting in the successful recall vote in June.