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Taiwan Vote Dispute Drags into Fourth Day

It remains unclear how soon the Taiwan election row will be resolved since the island's high court rejected the Kuomintang's (KMT's) move to declare Saturday's election legally invalid.

Thousands of protesters continued their vigil Thursday in Taipei, pressing for a recount after a disputed vote they said was marred by "numerous clouds of suspicion."

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) candidates Chen Shui-bian and Annette Lu, who were seeking reelection, reportedly led their challengers by a very narrow margin of less than 30,000 votes.

According to initial figures, Chen and Lu won 6,471,970 votes, or 50.11 percent of the total, against 49.89 percent of the votes, totaling 6,442,452, for Lien Chan and James Soong of the KMT-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, which meant that 200,000 military and police could not vote.

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

The opposition demanded all the ballot boxes be sealed to prepare for a recount and filed a petition to nullify the election. The high court ordered all ballot boxes from some 13,000 polling stations islandwide sealed on Sunday.

The Taiwan high court, however, rejected the KMT's lawsuit to invalidate the tightly contested race yesterday. It said the KMT may resubmit its claim at a later date.

Nullification of the result would force another election.

"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 is expected to announce the result officially 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.

(China Daily March 25, 2004)

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