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Taiwan gov't names interim Kaohsiung mayor following recall of Han

Kaohsiung Mayor Han Kuo-yu, left, the defeated candidate in Taiwan's presidential election this year, speaks to reporters in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, on June 6, 2020, after a referendum to recall him passed by a wide margin, making him the first popularly elected mayor to be recalled in the island's modern history. (Kyodo)

TAIPEI (Kyodo) -- Taiwan's government on Friday announced its selection of Kaohsiung city counselor Yang Ming-jou, an independent, to serve as interim mayor of the port city following last weekend's successful recall vote of Han Kuo-yu.

    The Central Election Commission said the same day that a by-election will be held on Aug. 15.

    Han, who angered residents by launching a presidential bid just months after being sworn into office in late 2018, will not be eligible to run for the same post for the next four years.

    On Thursday, Han's last day in office, he thanked his team and supporters and said he would not participate in politics or accept any political position in the near future.

    Speaking at an outdoor concert next to city hall, a teary-eyed Han expressed condolences over the death last Saturday of Kaohsiung City Council Speaker Hsu Kun-yuan.

    Hsu, a close friend and vocal supporter of Han, was found dead after falling from his 17th-floor apartment after Saturday's vote. Initial investigations point to suicide.

    On Friday, Han made a low-key visit to a funeral home where Hsu's body was resting, only saying it was his last day in Kaohsiung.

    Han is the first popularly elected mayor to be recalled in Taiwan's modern history.

    More than 97 percent of votes in the referendum were cast in favor of recalling him, proof of the dramatic fall from grace of the one-time star of the Nationalist Party (KMT) who rose to power on a wave of populism.

    While many are pessimistic of the KMT's chances of winning the by-election, KMT Chairman Johnny Chiang said his party will nominate a suitable candidate as soon as possible.

    The Democratic Progressive Party is expected to nominate Vice Premier Chen Chi-mai, who lost to Han in the 2018 mayoral race.

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

    Running on the KMT ticket, Han ended up losing the presidential election in January by a landslide to incumbent President Tsai Ing-wen of the DPP.

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