Taiwan election recount possible by mid-May
A recount of the hotly disputed Taiwan "presidential election" could begin by mid-May after lawyers for Chen Shui-bian and his challenger Lien Chan ironed out many details at a court hearing on Monday.
The two sides took a step toward resolving a political crisis that has sparked violent protests, agreeing to a full recount by Central Election Commission workers under the supervision of judges and lawyers from each side.
The recount is part of a lawsuit Lien has filed to nullify Chen's March 20 election victory, which cites voting irregularities and a record number of invalid ballots, among other factors.
"There was a high degree of consensus between the two sides," said Wellington Koo, a lawyer for Chen.
"I think it is quite likely that we can have the recount before mid-May," Koo told reporters after a three-hour meeting with Lien's legal team and a High Court tribunal.
Jaclyn Tsai, a lawyer representing Lien, said the court also believed mid-May was a reasonable time frame.
Chen of the Democratic Progressive Party defeated Nationalist chairman Lien by fewer than 30,000 votes out of more than 13 million cast. The suit cites a record 330,000 invalid ballots, which will be re-examined in the recount.
Chen's victory came a day after he was lightly wounded in an assassination attempt. Lien has questioned whether the shooting had been staged to win sympathy votes.
The controversial election has polarized Taiwan. Thousands of opposition protesters demanding an independent inquiry into the shooting clashed with riot police outside the "presidential office" on Saturday. Nearly 100 people were injured.
Lawyers compromised on the terms of the recount after Chen's side had proposed a tally by the election commission, while Lien's side had asked judicial officials to do the counting.
The tribunal insisted both sides send lawyers to act as their representatives for the recount effort.
Tsai said she was concerned that would delay the process as Taiwan only had an estimated 3,000 lawyers. The central election commission had employed 13,000 workers on March 20.
"Manpower is the biggest problem, that is the what we need to solve most urgently," she told a news conference. "Both sides are worried about how many lawyers we can mobilize."
They are required to give an estimate of the number of lawyers they can offer by Friday, which will determine the number of judges the court will assign for supervision, she said.
Some Nationalist lawmakers fear the party is spending too much time challenging the March 20 poll instead of planning for the December "parliamentary elections." They also worry the violent demonstrations will lose them votes.
"I will take full responsibility for this election," Lien told a news conference. "But we are still contesting the election. The lawsuit is being held up and delayed. We hope to resolve the issue soon."