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Taiwan's Chen urged to cancel inauguration
By Xiao Xing (China Daily)
Updated: 2004-05-14 22:58

Taiwan's opposition lawmakers have urged re-elected "president" Chen Shui-bian to cancel his inauguration next week as the recount of the disputed March election enters the fifth day on Saturday.

The legislators say the recount, expected to take 10 days, is showing the vote was riddled with serious problems, including missing voter lists, mismarked ballots and votes that were sealed in the wrong bags, said lawyers with the Kuomintang (KMT).

Taiwan media reports said that already more than 30,000 votes have been challenged.

Judges and lawyers examine ballots cast in a hotly contested "presidential election" in Taoyuan on May 10, 2004, the first day of a recount to resolve a bitter political dispute that has sparked violent street protests and paralysed policymaking on the island. [Reuters]

That should prompt the president to call off next Thursday's inauguration, the opposition said.

"Friends in the media, people of Taiwan, we must speak out loudly. Under these conditions, the organization of the inauguration should be halted," KMT legislator Sun Kauo-hwa said in a speech in the island's top legislature, "legislative yuan."

Chen's Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), however, argues that the mistakes are connected to sloppiness inevitable in all major elections.

The ruling party says there's no evidence of an organized effort to rig the March 20 vote that the president won by a razor-thin 0.2 per cent margin, or 30,000 votes.

The high court, which is overseeing the recount, has declined to say who's winning the recount and how many ballots have been counted.It will make a final ruling on how each of the disputed votes -- which were singled out by lawyers representing the rival candidates -- should be counted.

Another opposition lawmaker, Chou Hsi-wei, of the People First Party, also called for a cancellation of the inauguration.

When a majority of people doubt that Chen won the March 20 election by relying on cheating and fraud, he should announce now that on May 20 he will not be inaugurated, Chou told the "parliament."

The opposition is planning a protest during the inauguration ceremony.

On political concerns sparked by the vote recount, Taiwan shares ended sharply lower on Friday.

The Weighted Price Index of the Taiwan Stock Exchange finished down 140.77 points, or 2.4 per cent, at 5,777.32.

In a related development, Taiwan police said on Friday they have arrested two men who might have been involved in an unexplained March 19 shooting that lightly injured Chen and his running mate, Annette Lu.

The men were caught with handguns and bullets similar to those used, investigator Wang Chong-jong told reporters in the southern city of Kaohsiung.

However, initial tests showed that the weapon and bullets were not identical to those used in the shooting, prosecutor Wang Sen-jong said.

"The gun and bullets tested today were smaller than the ones used on March 19. They didn't match," the prosecutor said.

But investigators suspected the men might have other weapons, and they were still looking for a possible connection with the shooting.

Both men said they were innocent, police said.

The arrests could revitalize the investigation that has gone on for several weeks without turning up any suspects or major leads.

After searching the suspects' home, police found two handguns and 33 bullets with bronze and lead tips like the ones used in the "presidential" shooting, said Hou You-yi, head of the Criminal Investigation Bureau.

One of the guns was German-made and the other was produced in an illegal workshop, police said.

Hou said that the crime lab was analyzing the weapons, and he stressed that the men were still not official suspects in the shooting.

"We have no clear evidence to prove that these two were involved in the case," he said.

Also arrested was an 18-year-old man, surnamed Lin, police said.

Chen's stomach was grazed in the March 19 shooting while his running mate Lu was hit in the knee as they drove past supporters in an open Jeep.

Challenger Lien Chan of the KMT has filed two separate lawsuits to overturn Chen's disputed victory, saying he won't accept the election results until the attack is explained.

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