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Taiwan vote dispute drags on
(China Daily)
Updated: 2004-03-24 22:55

Taiwan's election dispute dragged into a fourth straight day Wednesday as the ruling and opposition parties have yet to find a solution to meet the latter's demand for a recount.

An opposition Kuomintang (KMT) supporter holds a banner in front of KMT headquarters in Taipei. [AFP]
It remains unclear how soon the row will be resolved after the island's high court rejected the Kuomintang's (KMT) legal move to declare Saturday's leader election invalid.

Thousands of protesters continued to stay vigilant Wednesday in Taipei, pressing for a recount after the disputed vote they said was clouded by "numerous clouds of suspicion."

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) candidates Chen Shui-bian and Annette Lu, who were seeking a re-election, reportedly led their challengers by a margin of less than 30,000 votes in Saturday's election.

According to initial figures, Chen and Lu won 6,471,970 votes, or 50.11 per cent of the total, against 49.89 per cent of the votes, totalling 6,442,452, for Lien Chan and James Soong of the KMT and People First Party coalition.

But immediately after the election, Lien and Soong called the result into question claiming the polling "was an unfair election" marred by voting irregularities and an unexplained election-eve shooting.

The opposition suggested that the mysterious shooting that slightly wounded both Chen and Lu one day before the polls seems suspicious.

After the attack, Chen activated a national security protocol, meaning 200,000 military and police could not vote.

Also at the heart of the row is the high number of invalid ballots, which totalled 337,297, almost triple the 122,278 in 2000 and 11 times Chen's margin of victory.

The opposition therefore demanded all the ballot boxes be sealed to prepare for a recount and filed a petition to nullify the election.

The Taiwan high court, however, rejected the KMT's lawsuit to invalidate the tightly contested race Wednesday although it agreed to order seals on all ballot boxes from some 13,000 polling stations islandwide on Sunday.

Nullification of the result would force another election.

But the court said the KMT may re-submit its claim at a later date.

"The main reason is that the plaintiff is required to file suit within 15 days of the central election commission's announcement of the election result," court spokesman Wen Yao-yuan reportedly said.

"The election commission has not yet announced the result, so the court ruled to reject the lawsuit."

The election commission was expected to officially announce the result tomorrow.

Meanwhile, the ruling and opposition parties appeared to have made little progress in resolving the dispute because they still disagree about how to do a speedy recount.

In line with current law, the courts have already begun considering whether a recount is needed, but the three-judge panel working on the issue could take up to six months to issue a decision.

The DPP wants to pass a bill that would amend the law to prompt a recount whenever a candidate wins by less than 1 per cent of the votes as Chen did on Saturday. Such a re-tally is called an "administrative recount.''

The ruling party said the law could be applied retroactively to Saturday's election, but the KMT has already rejected the proposal.

"We won't accept an administrative recount because it would use the same people who did the original vote count," said Justin Chou, a KMT spokesman.

"We want to have judges conduct all the recounting."

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