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Taiwanese vote to recall city mayor who sought presidency

Taiwanese in the southern port city of Kaohsiung voted Saturday in a special election to recall their mayor, whose failed bid for the presidency on behalf of the China-friendly Nationalist Party earlier this year brought widespread disapproval among residents.

Results of the recall election — Taiwan’s first — are expected soon after the 1,823 polling stations close at 4 p.m. (0800 GMT).

To succeed, the measure to recall Mayor Han Kuo-yu must receive support from 25% of the city’s more than 2 million eligible voters, with more backing it than voting against it.

Han won a surprise victory in 2018 in what had long been a stronghold of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party, which rejects China’s demand that it recognize Taiwan as a part of Chinese territory.

His decision to take a leave of absence to seek the presidency just months after taking office drew heavy criticism and a petition campaign was launched to seek his recall.

Han was blasted for his contacts with China’s ruling Communist Party and lost in the presidential election to DPP incumbent Tsai Ing-wen by a whopping 57% to 38%, with a third party candidate taking the remaining percentage.

Strong Taiwanese disapproval of the heavy crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in the semi-autonomous Chinese territory of Hong Kong and questions about how Han had acquired expensive properties on his modest civil servant’s salary also helped Tsai to the landslide win.

China has shunned Tsai since shortly after her 2016 inauguration, shutting the already diplomatically isolated island out of international forums and stepping up its threat to conquer the island by military force. She has, however, received strong support from the Trump administration amid sharply deteriorating relations between Beijing and Washington.