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Taiwan disputed votes rise to 35,000
By Xiao Xing (China Daily)
Updated: 2004-05-18 08:24

Judges are expected to finish recounting 13 million ballots from Taiwan's "presidential" election today while the number of disputed votes climbed to 35,000.

But it could take the island's high court several more weeks to confirm or overturn Chen Shui-bian's razor-thin victory, Taiwan media reported.

After the ballot recount - which began on May 10 - is completed, the next step will involve checking the rosters of eligible voters to see if the names match those who cast the votes.

The high court has given a 30-day deadline for the next task, according to Taiwan-based ETtoday.com.

Chen won a second term with a 0.2 per cent margin of victory, or 30,000 votes, in the March 20 poll.

Opposition challenger Lien Chan, however, filed a lawsuit to nullify the election, saying it was marred by irregularities.

Most of the vote-counting at the 21 district courts islandwide has been completed, and all the ballots should be recounted by today, said Cheng Wen-tsang, spokesman of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).

So far, judges and court officials haven't said which party is winning the recount.

The DPP spokesman said Chen's inauguration will be held as scheduled on Thursday because the retally did not show an organized effort to rig votes.

Opposition spokesman Justin Chou said Chen's margin of victory further narrowed to about 20,000 because judges found more mismarked votes.

Cheng refused to give the result, but local newspapers quoted unidentified ruling party officials as saying Chen's lead dropped by 3,000 votes to about 27,000.

Meanwhile, media reports said the number of votes in dispute had risen to about 35,000 which will need decisions by the high court.

Many problems have emerged in the retally, such as missing voter lists, mismarked ballots and votes that were sealed in the wrong bags.

The opposition also said the number of ballot papers distributed differed from the number of ballots cast by several thousand.

The opposition hopes that irregularities that turn up during the recount might bolster its request that the high court nullify the election.

The high court will make the final ruling on any disputed votes, a process that could take several weeks.

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