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Taiwan mayor and ex-presidential candidate loses recall vote

Kaohsiung residents overwhelmingly choose to kick Han Kuo-yu out of office

More than 920,000 Kaohsiung residents voted to recall the China-friendly Han Kuo-yu, with 24,000 casting ballots to keep him. (Photo by Kensaku Ihara)

TAIPEI (Kyodo) -- Kaohsiung Mayor Han Kuo-yu, the defeated candidate in Taiwan's presidential election this year, lost a recall referendum held Saturday, making him the first popularly elected mayor to be recalled in the island's modern history.

According to the website of the Kaohsiung City Election Commission, the two conditions required for the recall motion to pass were easily met.

Soon after the required turnout threshold was exceeded, Han conceded defeat. It was not immediately known whether he intends to appeal the result.

Speaking at city hall, he expressed gratitude to the 890,000 Kaohsiung residents who voted for him in the 2018 mayoral election, and also thanked those who chose not to vote in the referendum.

He also accused the ruling Democratic Progressive Party of organizing a "national team" to assist the recall campaign.

Wrapping up his talk, Han bowed and thanked citizens and his team for their support over the past 18 months.

If Han does not lodge an appeal, he will be relieved of his duties and a by-election will be held within three months. He would not be eligible to run for mayor for the next four years.

Initiators of the recall campaign accused Han of neglecting his mayoral duties by running for president only four months after taking the oath of office in December 2018.

Last month, Han publicly apologized at the city council for taking a three-month leave to run for president. He said he would respect the people's decision regardless of the ultimate result.

For the recall motion to pass, not only did the "yes" votes need to outnumber "no" votes, but a minimum of 25 percent of the city's eligible voters needed to vote in favor of the measure.

As of 6 p.m. local time, more than 920,000 people, or 40 percent of eligible voters, voted for his recall, while about 24,000, or just 1.1 percent, voted against it.

Running on the Nationalist Party (KMT) ticket, he ended up losing January's election by a landslide to incumbent President Tsai Ing-wen of the DPP.

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