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Taiwan Election Lawsuit on Back Burner

In a bid to facilitate a speedy vote recount, Taiwan's Kuomintang (KMT) opposition party announced yesterday it was temporarily withdrawing a lawsuit that sought to void the result of last month's "presidential" election.

The move came only two days after KMT candidate Lien Chan filed a petition asking the island's high court to declare the March 20 election invalid.

Lawyers for the KMT said they intend first to focus on another suit, which was filed last Monday, to nullify the narrow victory of Chen Shui-bian of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and demand a recount.

"We decided to temporarily withdraw the election nullification suit," said Lee Tsung-teh, a KMT lawyer.

"We think we should let the court, which is already handling the earlier case, go ahead with a full judicial recount."

On March 26 the island's "central election committee" certified the reelection of Chen by just 0.2 percent, or less than 30,000 votes out of more than 13 million ballots cast.

Lien, however, has challenged Chen's razor-thin victory, alleging the election was marred by numerous voting irregularities, including a record 330,000 spoiled ballots.

He also claimed a mysterious election-eve shooting that slightly wounded both Chen and running mate Annette Lu caused a swelling of sympathy votes.

Opposition lawyers said they were worried the two petitions filed with the high court would needlessly slow progress in resolving the conflict.

They said their decision to withdraw the second petition was based on concerns that the judges might order recounts in both cases, increasing confusion.

A separate panel of judges would handle the second petition, and might order a recount as an interim step in deciding whether there were enough irregularities to order that the election be redone.

"If the court decides to have simultaneous recounts in both cases, and if the recount methods are different, then those could interfere with each other," said opposition lawyer Lee Yi-kuang.

"If the results of the two recounts are not the same, will this not create even more social unease?"

The opposition lawyers yesterday also clarified their demands in the petition for a recount.

The court earlier gave the two parties five days to iron out the terms of a recount and they were expected to submit their proposals to the judges late yesterday.

The attorneys told the court they wanted judges, not election officials, to play a key role in the recount. The KMT has said judges are more likely to be impartial.

The lawyers also want the recount to be detailed, with judges examining each disputed ballot.

Chen favors having election workers handle the retally.

The lawyers said they knew that going against opposition demands for a quick recount would slow the process.

"Even though the recount will need more time and people this way, we think it's worth investing more time and people," lawyer Tsai Yu-ling said.

(China Daily April 8, 2004)

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