Taiwan’s Democratic Institutions: The Electoral Rise and Recall of Kuomintang’s Han Kuo-yu Mayor
Commenced in January 2007
Frequency: Monthly
Edition: International
Paper Count: 32799
Taiwan’s Democratic Institutions: The Electoral Rise and Recall of Kuomintang’s Han Kuo-yu Mayor

Authors: Ryan Brading


The results of Taiwan’s presidential election, which took place on 11 January 2020, were alarming for the Kuomintang (KMT). A party that was once the pillar of Taiwan’s institutional apparatus is now losing its direction. Since 2016, the inability of KMT to construct a winning presidential election campaign strategy has made its Chinese ancestry an obstacle in Taiwan’s vibrant and transparent democracy. The appearance of the little-known legislator Han Kuo-yu as the leadership alternative opened the possibility of reigniting the party. Han’s victory in the Kaohsiung mayoral election in November 2018 provided hope that Han could also win the presidency. Wrongly described as a populist, Han, however, was defeated in the January 2020 presidential race. This article analyses why Han is not a populist, his triumph in Kaohsiung, humiliation in running for the presidency and suffering a complete ‘loss of face’ when Kaohsiungers democratically ousted him from the mayoral post on 6 June 2020.

Keywords: Populism, ‘1992 Consensus’, Taiwan, youth vote, Han’s recall.

Procedia APA BibTeX Chicago EndNote Harvard JSON MLA RIS XML ISO 690 PDF Downloads 309


[1] Poll Centre – Public Opinion Marketing Research. 2018. “Poll on people’s dissatisfaction over President Tsai Ing-wen’s two-year administration”, 04-15 May (Sample size: 1,073 Kaohsiung voters - 95% confidence level, with sampling error of ± 3.0%), https://cc.tvbs.com.tw/portal/file/poll_center/2018/20180516/27bcedb9362b32c82f7cc0c9e089b240.pdf. Accessed 6 March 2020.
[2] Formosa. 2018. “美麗島民調:2018年5月國政民調 – Formosa poll: May 2018 nationwide poll”, Formosa, 28 May, http://www.my-formosa.com/DOC_134471.htm. Accessed 7 March 2020.
[3] 黎家維. 2018. “總統府秘書長為何非陳菊不可? - Why does the secretary general of the presidential office has to be Chen ju?”, National Policy Foundation. 7 March, https://www.npf.org.tw/1/18266. Accessed 9 March 2020.
[4] Brown, David G. and Kyle Churchman. 2020. "Election portends continued tension", Comparative Connections 21(3), 69–78;
[5] Copper, John F. "Taiwan’s 2020 presidential, vice presidential and legislative election: testing election theories", East Asian Policy 12(02), 45–56;
[6] Templeman, Kharis. 2020. "How Taiwan stands up to China", Journal of Democracy 31(3), 85–99;
[7] Hsiao, Hsin-Huang Michael. 2019. “Opinion: rising populism in Taiwan politics”, Common Wealth, 06 August, https://english.cw.com.tw/article/article.action?id=2506. Accessed 10 October 2020.
[8] Taggart, Paul. 2000. Book Populism. Buckingham: Open University Press.
[9] Hawkins, Kirk. 2010. Book Venezuela’s Chavismo and Populism in Comparative Perspective. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.
[10] Mény, Yves and Yves Surel. 2002. “The constitutive ambiguity of populism.” In Yves Mény and Yves Surel (eds.), Democracies and the Populist Challenge. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan, 1–21.
[11] Hwang, Kwang-Kuo. 2004. The Chronicle on Populism and the Death of Taiwan - 民粹亡台記. Democratic Action Alliance.
[12] Mudde, Cas and Cristobal R. Kaltwasser. 2012. “Populism and (liberal) democracy: a framework for analysis.” In Cas Mudde and Cristobal R. Kaltwasser (eds.), Populism in Europe and the Americas: Threat or Corrective for Democracy? New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, 1–26.
[13] Brading, R. 2013. Populism in Venezuela. New York: Routledge.
[14] Laclau, Ernesto. 2005. “Populism: what’s in a name?” In Francisco Panizza (ed.), Populism and the Mirror of Democracy. London: Verso, 32–49.
[15] CTV. 2017. “106年中國國民黨主席選舉電視政見發表會 4/29(六) 1400起~全程LIVE直播 - 2017 Chinese nationalist party chairman election TV political conference 4/29 (Saturday) from 1,400 ~ full live broadcast”, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nq0hUIaD_ds. Accessed 10 April 2020.
[16] Fell, Dafydd. 2017. “Social movements in Taiwan after 2008.” In Fell Dafydd (ed.), Taiwan’s Social Movements under Ma Ying-jeou – From Wild Strawberries to the Sunflowers. London: Routledge, 1–17;
[17] Wu, Charles KS. 2019. "How public opinion shapes Taiwan's sunflower movement", Journal of East Asian Studies 19(3), 289–307.
[18] Fell, Dafydd. 2009. "Lessons of defeat: a comparison of taiwanese ruling parties' responses to electoral defeat", Asian Politics & Policy 1(4), 660–681.
[19] Fell, Dafydd and Charles Chen. 2014. "Lessons of Defeat and Success: Taiwan’s 2012 Elections in Comparative Perspective", Journal of Current Chinese Affairs 43(3), 13–43.
[20] TVBS News. 2017. “106年中國國民黨黨主席選舉 電視政見會- the Chinese Kuomintang 2017 chairmanship election” https://youtu.be/h9E1PyoNALY. Accessed 15 April 2020.
[21] NCCU. 2020.“Taiwanese / Chinese Identity (1992/06~2020/06)”, Election Study Center, National Chengchi University (NCCU), 3 July, https://esc.nccu.edu.tw/PageDoc/Detail?fid=7800&id=6961. Accessed 15 August 2020.
[22] Lee, Zong-Rong and Thing-hong Lin. 2017. 未竟的奇蹟:轉型中的台灣經濟與社會/李宗榮,林宗弘主編-Unfinished Miracle–Taiwan's Economy and Society in Transition. Taipei: Academia Sinica, Institute of Sociology.
[23] Brading, R. 2020. “Generation Z in Taiwan: Low salaries, ‘Little Happiness’ and social-media world in the mix”, in Chris Scholz and Elodie Gentina (Eds.), Generation Z in Asia: Emerald Publishing.
[24] Fell, Dafydd. 2020. “Party politics in Taiwan revisited.” In Fell Dafydd and Hsiao ‪Hsin-Huang Michael (eds.), Taiwan Studies Revisited. London, UK: Routledge, 178–196.‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬
[25] KMT News. 2018.“韓國瑜:我們一定要徹底活化高雄!《翻轉高雄挺韓國瑜市長茶會》- Han Kuo-yu: we must completely revitalize Kaohsiung! Flip Kaohsiung to support mayor Yu's tea party”, YouTube, 11 July, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DIqI0mP9GO0. Accessed 27 April 2020.
[26] Brading, R. 2017. Taiwan’s millennial generation: Interests in polity and party politics. Journal of Current Chinese Affairs, 46, 131-166.
[27] TVBS Poll Centre – Public Opinion Marketing Research. “Polls for Kaohsiung Mayoral elections – one month before Election Day”, 14-16 October (Sample size: 1,009 Kaohsiung voters - 95% confidence level, with sampling error of ± 3.1%), https://cc.tvbs.com.tw/portal/file/poll_center/2018/20181017/311d800af08b582203de97c49f471cba.pdf; Accessed 24 July 2020.
[28] TVBS Poll Centre “polls for Kaohsiung Mayoral elections – three weeks before Election Day”, 04-06 November (Sample size: 1,077 Kaohsiung voters - 95% confidence level, with sampling error of ± 3.0%), https://cc.tvbs.com.tw/portal/file/poll_center/2018/20181107/d2a8b92fe57a48c2a867a6e74a103420.pdf. Accessed 24 July 2020.
[29] Central Election Commission. 2014. “Kaohsiung mayoral election”, https://db.cec.gov.tw/histQuery.jsp?voteCode=20141101B1B1&qryType=ctks&prvCode=64&cityCode=000&candNo=3 (KMT);
[30] Central Election Commission. 2014. “Kaohsiung mayoral election”, https://db.cec.gov.tw/histQuery.jsp?voteCode=20141101B1B1&qryType=ctks&prvCode=64&cityCode=000&candNo=2 (DPP);
[31] Central Election Commission. 2018. “Kaohsiung mayoral election”, https://db.cec.gov.tw/histQuery.jsp?voteCode=20181101A1B1&qryType=ctks&prvCode=64&cityCode=000&candNo=1 (KMT);
[32] Central Election Commission. 2014. “Kaohsiung mayoral election” https://db.cec.gov.tw/histQuery.jsp?voteCode=20181101A1B1&qryType=ctks&prvCode=64&cityCode=000&candNo=2 (DPP). Accessed 10 August 2020.
[33] Cheung, Tony. 2019. “Beijing-friendly Taiwanese mayor Han Kuo-yu arrives in Hong for historic meeting”, South China Morning Post, 22 March, https://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/politics/article/3002782/beijing-friendly-taiwanese-mayor-arrives-hong-kong-historic. Accessed 5 March 2020.
[34] ‘The Taiwan Free Economic Pilot Zone’ project began in August 2013, during Ma’s administration. Its likelihood of success and how it would economically benefit Kaohsiung was unclear.
[35] LTN. 2019. “LTN, 真懂自經區? 韓國瑜狂跳針「發大財」 議員問到翻白眼 - Really understand what the economic zone is? Han Kuo-yu madly jumps the needle and "makes a fortune" councillor rolls her eyes when asked”, YouTube, 3 May, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=loCSShzIYYk. Accessed 14 May 2020.
[36] Huang, J (黃捷) New Power Party Fongshan Councillor, Fongshan Kaohsiung, 16 May. 2020.
[37] EBC Live. 2019. “《完整版》「不參加現行制度初選」 選不選總統韓國瑜五點聲明講清楚了?!- "Full Version" "Not Participating in the Primary Election of the Current System" The five-point statement on whether or not to elect the president, Han Yu, made it clear?!”, YouTube, 22 April, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a_QZCZO9FBE. Accessed 1 June 2020.
[38] USTV. 2019. “"Yes, I Do." 首度表態!若國民黨徵詢納初選民調? 韓國瑜:我會接受的∣非凡新聞 –"Yes, I Do." This is the first statement! What if the Kuomintang consults the primary polls? Han Yu: I will accept the extraordinary news”, YouTube, 17 May, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-1ACg-A-6vY. Accessed 8 June 2020.
[39] Mattlin, Mikael. 2019. “Depoliticising a structurally politicalised society: the importance of responsible political agency.” In Dafydd Fell and Hsin-Huang Michael Hsiao (eds.), Taiwan Studies Revisited. London, UK: Routledge, 215–233.
[40] TVBS Poll Centre – Public Opinion Marketing Research. 2019. “Post-KMT primary election 2020 presidential election poll”, 15-17 July (Sample size: 1,068 voters - 95% confidence level, with sampling error of ± 3.0%), https://cc.tvbs.com.tw/portal/file/poll_center/2019/20190812/3198284e001809044d673f092a7ce992.pdf;
[41] TVBS Poll Centre – Public Opinion Marketing Research. 2019. “2020 presidential elections poll – after Han Kuo-yu took a leave”, 18-23 October (Sample size: 1,209 voters - 95% confidence level, with sampling error of ± 2.8%), https://cc.tvbs.com.tw/portal/file/poll_center/2019/20191025/534bfbb24edcd588554b7cf24443857f.pdf;
[42] TVBS Poll Centre – Public Opinion Marketing Research. 2019. “After the TV debate, the 2020 presidential election poll”, 29 December (Sample size: 1,030 voters - 95% confidence level, with sampling error of ± 3.0%), https://cc.tvbs.com.tw/portal/file/poll_center/2019/20191230/a136da8dbd0dd9b2ff1b35ebb05637e7.pdf. Accessed 24-26 July 2020.
[43] TVBS News. “總統大選辯論 完整版 - full TV presidential debate”, YouTube, 29 December, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BjFuv-lfYyQ&t=309s. Accessed 30 July 2020.
[44] Central Election Commission. 2020. “Presidential and vice-presidential election”.
[45] Lee, L (李佾潔) Citizens Mowing Action Leader, Kaohsiung, 23 March 2020.
[46] Yi, A (尹立) Wecare Kaohsiung Founder, Kaohsiung, 19 May 2020.
[47] Chang, P (張博洋) Taiwan State Building Party Deputy Director, Kaohsiung, 26 May 2020.
[48] Focus Taiwan. 2020. “Han challenges legal basis of vote to recall him”, Focus Taiwan, 8 April, https://focustaiwan.tw/politics/202004080015. Accessed 17 August 2020.
[49] Yu-hao, Ko, and William Hetherington. 2020. “Han apologizes for taking months off to campaign”, Taipei Times, 19 May, https://www.taipeitimes.com/News/taiwan/archives/2020/05/19/2003736673. Accessed 17 August 2020.
[50] Central Election Commission. 2020. “Kaohsiung’s recall results”.