Yu Shyi-kun Elected Legislative Speaker
Former Premier Yu Shyi-kun, a newly elected Democratic Progressive Party legislator-at-large, was elected Speaker of the Legislative Yuan on February 1. He succeeds two-term Speaker Su Jia-Chyuan, who decided not to run again after his wife, Hung Heng-chu, announced her bid for legislator representing Pingtung County on the DPP ticket last year. After facing pushback from other DPP members, she later decided to run as an independent instead, then withdrew her candidacy altogether in mid-November.
In his inaugural speech, Yu Shyi-kun pledged to lower the voting age in order to encourage more people of all ages to join in the election process. He also stated his dedication to cooperating with colleagues in securing free-trade agreements with friendly nations, and stated that Taiwan should use its soft power and strategic location to take advantage of opportunities provided by the U.S.-China trade dispute.
Yu previously served as Premier from 2002 to 2005 and was chairman of the DPP in 2005-2006. Earlier he served two terms as magistrate of Yilan County. Yu is considered a founding member of the DPP.
Han Recall Campaign Nears Goal
A petition seeking the recall of Kao-hsiung Mayor Han Kuo-yu has nearly reached its goal of 580,000 signatures, the number needed to launch an official recall vote. The campaign, initiated by the civil society groups Citizen’s Mowing Action and WeCare Kaohsiung, was launched as a response to Han’s decision to run for president on the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) ticket a mere three months after his inauguration as mayor, despite his promise to Kao-hsiung residents that he would serve out his term as mayor. Han lost the presidential election in early January to DPP rival and incumbent Tsai Ing-wen by almost 20 percentage points.
Han was elected mayor of Kaohsiung by a surprising 9% margin, following a well-funded populist campaign and a plethora of seemingly impossible promises to reverse the industrial city’s fortunes, making him the first KMT politician to govern the city in more than two decades. However, he quickly lost favor after taking office when the projects his administration embarked on showed little or no progress.
First Section of MRT Yellow Line Opened
The first section of a planned circular MRT line began normal operation on January 31. The yellow line connects Dapinglin station on the green line with New Taipei Industrial Park on the Taoyuan Airport MRT circuit, with stops in Xindian, Zhonghe, Banqiao, and Xinzhuang in between. New Taipei City Mayor Hou Yu-ih and other officials emphasized that passengers can now traverse through that portion of New Taipei without needing to go into Taipei, which will ease congestion at existing transfer stations.
In addition, passengers departing from Taoyuan International Airport will be able to check-in to their flight and drop off luggage at the New Taipei Industrial Park transfer station for a few select airlines.
As part of the grand opening, passengers on the new MRT line were allowed to ride free of charge for the first month of operations.