Ann Kao, a former executive at the flagship electronics business of Taiwan billionaire Terry Gou, was elected mayor of global chipmaking hub Hsinchu as voters delivered a major setback to the ruling Democratic Progressive Party in local elections Saturday.
Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen, who in 2021 ranked No. 9 on the Forbes list of the world’s most powerful women, resigned as DPP chairwoman on Saturday after the main opposition Chinese Nationalist Party, or Kuomintang (KMT), won key local races.
The DPP won only five mayoral or county magistrate seats, compared with the previous seven. The main opposition Chinese National Party, or Kuomintang (KMT), won 13 of 21 races.
Military tension between Taipei and Beijing flared in August after U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan and met Tsai. Beijing claims sovereignty over Taiwan, a self-ruled democracy of 24 million people that is the world’s 22nd largest economy. Polls show locals favor keeping the status quo. Tsai’s party tried to gain support based on Beijing’s recent threats, but voters on Saturday mainly focused on local issues including pandemic response, political analysts said. Tsai is in her second four-year term and can’t run for re-election in the next presidential election in 2024.
Kao, who is also known as Kao Hung-an and who at age 38 will be Taiwan’s youngest mayor, won her Hsinchu race with 98,121 votes or 45% of the total, over DPP rival Shen Hui-hung, who had 35.7%, Taiwan media reported. She emphasized her tech background and represented a party founded in 2019, the Taiwan People’s Party, or TPP, whose founder Ko Wen-je has “an alliance” with billionaire Gou, the Central News Agency said. Gou is the founder of Apple supplier Hon Hai Precision, one of the world’s largest electronics makers; he is worth $6.1 billion on the Forbes Real-Time Billionaires List today. Hon Hai Precision is better known by its trade name Foxconn.
Following expectations in 2019 that Gou himself would seek the presidency in the 2020 race, the tycoon issued a statement just ahead of a filing deadline saying he wouldn’t run.
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Kao began her political career in 2019 as a Gou aide in the KMT’s presidential primary, before being put “high up” on the TPP’s legislator-at-large slate of candidates “on Gou’s recommendation” for the 2020 legislative elections, CNA reported. Earlier, Kao worked at the government-funded Institute for Information Industry (III), before becoming the head of the “big data office” at Hon Hai in 2018. “Kao also emphasized her close connection to Gou” during the campaign, though the billionaire never publicly endorsed her, the news agency said.
Hsinchu has a population of more than 450,000 and is home to large Taiwan semiconductor businesses including Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing, or TSMC, GlobalWafers and United Microelectronics.
Kao triumphed despite allegations of wrongdoing. “Saturday’s election result showed that legal action against Kao by the III and an ongoing investigation into allegations she misappropriated public funds as a legislator had not eroded support” for her, CNA reported.
Gou’s Hon Hai, one of Apple’s main iPhone suppliers, has been in the news this week following violent protests at one of its largest manufacturing facilities in China. (See related story here.)
Voters in Taipei, Taiwan’s business and political center, elected the KMT’s Wayne Chiang Wan-an, the 43-year-old great-grandson of Taiwan martial law leader Chiang Kai-shek as mayor. Defeated DPP Taipei mayoral candidate Chen Shi-chung, a former health minister, had high public approval ratings two years ago as the “Dr. Fauci” of Taiwan, but lost the race as his popularity dipped and the public lost patience with government Covid policies.
Though Taiwan and the mainland differ on much, frustration with Covid disruptions — soon to enter their fourth year — is one area where public opinion on the two sides appears aligned.
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