Chen Po-wei becomes first legislator in Taiwan to lose recall vote (update)

10/23/2021 10:32 PM
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Outgoing Legislator Chen Po-wei (right) receives a hug from a supporter after conceding in the recall vote in Taichung Saturday. CNA photo Oct. 23, 2021
Outgoing Legislator Chen Po-wei (right) receives a hug from a supporter after conceding in the recall vote in Taichung Saturday. CNA photo Oct. 23, 2021

Taipei, Oct. 23 (CNA) Legislator Chen Po-wei (陳柏惟) of the Taiwan Statebuilding Party (TSP) will be removed from office after losing an unprecedented recall election in Taichung's second electoral constituency Saturday.

The Central Election Commission (CEC) said in a statement that official notice of the recall election's results will be issued within seven days.

Confirmation will make Chen the first legislator in Taiwan's history to be ousted following a recall election, while the TSP will lose its only seat in the Legislature.

A by-election will be held within three months but Chen is barred from running for the Legislature for the next four years, according to the CEC.

Results from the CEC show that a total of 77,899 voted to recall Chen, surpassing the threshold of 73,744, or one quarter of 294,976 eligible voters in the second electoral constituency of Taichung.

The electoral constituency covers the districts of Shalu, Longjing, Dadu, Wuri and Wufeng.

With only 73,433 ballots cast opposing the recall motion, this meant that Chen became the first member of the Legislature to be removed from office via recall election.

Voters wait in a queue outside a polling station in Taichung Saturday. CNA photo Oct. 23, 2021
Voters wait in a queue outside a polling station in Taichung Saturday. CNA photo Oct. 23, 2021

A total of 152,567 people voted Saturday and the turnout stood at 51.72 percent, with 1,235 invalid ballots, according to the CEC.

This set a new record for turnout at recall elections since 2016, the same year an amendment was passed making it easier to recall elected officials.

The previous high of 42.14 percent was set in June 2020, when then-incumbent Kuomintang (KMT) Mayor of Kaohsiung Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜) was ousted months after a failed bid for Taiwan's presidency.

Chang Chun-hao (張峻豪), a professor of political science at Tunghai University in Taichung, said the high turnout and the margin of victory was a reflection of the strong campaigns waged by both the KMT and the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).

The gap, Chang said, had grown from less than 1 percentage point in the 2013 by-election won by the KMT-backed Yen Kuan-heng (顏寬恆), to nearly 3 percentage points on Saturday.

The DPP-backed Chen unseated Yen in 2020, winning that poll by 2.3 percentage points.

The number of votes against recalling Chen also broke the previous record of 65,545 set during a failed attempt to recall then-KMT lawmaker Hung Hsiu-chu (洪秀柱) in 1994.

Four other KMT lawmakers -- including future Kaohsiung Mayor Han -- also survived recall votes on the same day as Hung.

The KMT's Tsai Cheng-yuan (蔡正元), in 2015, and the New Power Party's Huang Kuo-chang (黃國昌), in 2017, are the only two other legislators to have been subject to a recall election, with both subsequently losing re-election bids in 2016 and 2020, respectively.

The recall campaign against Chen had been initiated by Yang Wen-yuan (楊文元), a constituent who said he had voted for Chen in 2020.

Yang accused Chen of failing his constituents by "behaving outrageously in Legislature" and for supporting the DPP's lifting of a ban on U.S. pork imports containing the livestock drug ractopamine.

Yang Wen-yuan, who initiated the recall campaign, casts his ballot in the recall vote in Taichung Saturday. CNA photo Oct. 23, 2021
Yang Wen-yuan, who initiated the recall campaign, casts his ballot in the recall vote in Taichung Saturday. CNA photo Oct. 23, 2021

The KMT, the largest opposition party in the Legislature, had supported the recall of Chen, while the DPP had campaigned in the legislator's favor.

The recall election was triggered after a petition started by Yang obtained enough signatures and secured approval from the CEC on July 2.

Originally scheduled for Aug. 28, the vote was delayed by 56 days due to an outbreak of domestically transmitted COVID-19 cases in mid-May.

While Chen is the first member of the Legislature to lose a recall vote, there have been a number of successful campaigns at local government level after a 2016 amendment to the Public Officials Election and Recall Act lowered the threshold for removal.

In addition to Chen in Taichung and Han in Kaohsiung, Taoyuan City Councillor Wang Hao-yu (王浩宇) of the DPP was removed from office after losing a January 2021 recall election in Jhongli.

(By Frances Huang, Chao Li-yen, Lai Yu-chen and Kay Liu)

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