Han challenges legal basis of vote to recall him

04/08/2020 06:19 PM
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Kaohsiung Mayor Han Kuo-yu
Kaohsiung Mayor Han Kuo-yu's lawyer Yeh Ching-yuan (left) and former Kaohsiung city spokesman Anne Wang (right) files an administrative litigation Wednesday, challenging the legal basis of vote to recall Han.

Taipei, April 8 (CNA) Lawyers representing Kaohsiung Mayor Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜) on Wednesday filed an administrative litigation, seeking the court's review of whether a recall vote against him should be allowed to proceed.

In the filing, Han's legal team said the groups that initiated the petition to recall him contravened the relevant law during the signature drive, which on Tuesday reached the threshold to allow a recall vote in June.

The groups began collecting signatures long before Han had been in office for one year, which contravened Article 75 of the Civil Servants Election and Recall Act, Han's lawyer Yeh Ching-yuan (葉慶元) and former Kaohsiung city spokesman Anne Wang (王淺秋) said.

Wang further argued that a recall vote, which is expected to cost NT$110 million (US$ 3.65 million), would be a waste of taxpayers' money and would also be a risky exercise at this time during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

The legal team, therefore, filed an administrative litigation in the Taipei High Administrative Court and at the Executive Yuan, seeking a review of the Central Election Commission's right to proceed with a recall vote against Han, despite the success of the petition in obtaining the required number of signatures.

Han Kuo-yu attending an event in Kaohsiung Wednesday
Han Kuo-yu attending an event in Kaohsiung Wednesday

The Central Election Commission (CEC) declined to comment on the move by Han's lawyers, saying only that it will hold a committee meeting on April 17 to verify the signatures on the petition.

Meanwhile, one of the leaders of the recall movement Aaron Yin (尹立) said Han's lawyers apparently had misinterpreted the law. The Civil Servants Election and Recall Act states that a recall proposal can only be filed against a civil servant who has been in office for more than one year, but it does not prevent the collection of signatures beforehand, Yin said.

He said his organization, WeCare Kaohsiung, put forth the recall proposal on June 27, 2019, after Han announced his presidential bid less than six months into his mayoral term, angering many Kaohsiung citizens who thought he was not giving priority to running the city.

Han, the Kuomintang (KMT) candidate in the Jan. 11 presidential election, lost to the incumbent President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) by a margin of more than 19 percent.

When the recall petition was launched against Han last year, the KMT said it was politically motivated, and the party drew attention to the fact that Yin had served as head of the Kaohsiung City Cultural Affairs Bureau from 2016-2018 under former Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chu (陳菊) of the DPP.

Under Taiwan law, once the CEC confirms the required number of signatures and verifies them in what is now the second stage of process, a recall vote must be held within 60 days.

In order for the result to be valid, at least 25 percent of voters -- about 580,000 in Kaohsiung - must participate in the recall vote, and a recall becomes valid if a majority votes in favor of it.

On Tuesday, the Kaohsiung City election commission announced that the petition to recall Han has passed the required threshold in the second stage of the three-step recall process.

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

In the case of Kaohsiung with an estimated 2.28 million eligible voters, that means 22,800 signatures, which the recall groups collected and passed on to the CEC for review on Jan. 17.

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

The signatures collected in the first phase are not considered valid in that stage of the process. The recall initiators ultimately collected more than 550,000 signatures in 40 days and sent around 400,000 to the city's election commission for verification on March 7.

(By Lin Chang-shuan, Wang Cheng-chung and Joseph Yeh)

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