Taiwan court refuses to nullify election
Taiwan's high court yesterday rejected opposition leader Lien Chan's petition to nullify the highly disputed March 20 "presidential" election.
The ruling upheld "president" Chen Shui-bian's controversial victory in the poll allegedly marred by numerous voting irregularities.
Chen won a second term by a razor-thin margin of 0.2 per cent, or 29,158 votes, following an election-eve shooting that slightly injured him and his running mate, Annette Lu.
Opposition candidate Lien, chairman of the Kuomintang (KMT), refused to concede while insisting that the mysterious shooting might have been staged to cause a swelling of sympathy votes for Chen of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party.
He launched a legal bid to annul the result of the elections and demand a full vote recount on March 29.
After seven months of hearings, ballot recounting and investigations, Wu Ching-yuan, the high court's presiding judge, ruled yesterday: "We announce hereby that the petition to nullify the election result is rejected."
The opposition can appeal within 20 days, he said.
A court statement said one of the reasons for the verdict was that an unprecedented ballot recount had confirmed Chen's victory.
The court announced for the first time the results of the recount, saying it had found 6.46 million votes for Chen against 6.43 million for Lien. Chen's winning margin narrowed to 25,563 votes.
The plaintiff had also failed to provide sufficient evidence to show Chen had faked the shooting, according to the court statement.
Lien told his supporters yesterday that "it's a dark day" for the island's democratic system.
His lawyer, Jaclyn Tsai, claimed the court was biased towards Chen, saying that Lien will appeal to the supreme court.
"This case was directed at the most powerful person in Taiwan who abuses power and jeopardizes the fairness of elections," Tsai said.
"We believe democracy in Taiwan must include a fair election system. We should not compromise on that."
A few hundred KMT supporters gathered outside the courthouse to wait for the ruling, sounding air horns and chanting "No truth, no president."
As soon as they heard the court's ruling, the protesters shouted: "The justice system is unfair. We object! We object!"
Barbed wire barricades blocked off the building to the demonstrators, who were outnumbered by police eager to prevent a repeat of the massive post-election protests.
Lien has alleged that the election was tarnished by vote-rigging and systematic fraud, including a record 330,000 spoiled ballots.
To challenge Chen's victory, Lien filed a separate lawsuit with the high court on April 5 that, seeking to nullify the whole election and hold a new vote.
Since the first lawsuit was dismissed, the KMT lawyers have pinned their hopes on the second lawsuit - still pending - that will seek a new election by citing other voting irregularities, according to media reports.
With just one month to go before "legislative" elections on December 11, the court ruling could become a hot campaign issue and further split the island, analysts said.