Taiwan: Taiwan vote recount ends
TAIPEI - A vote recount in Taiwan's contested presidential election concluded Tuesday, but the bitter dispute is far from ended, as a final court ruling will come after incumbent Chen Shui-bian takes office.
The re-tally, which began on May 10, has found nearly 40,000 disputed ballots of the 13 million cast in the March election, party officials and lawyers said.
Chen beat Nationalist leader Lien Chan by a razor-thin 0.2 percent, or fewer than 30,000 votes, a day after the incumbent was lightly wounded in a mysterious assassination attempt.
Lien said the shooting may have been staged to win sympathy votes and has filed two lawsuits to overturn Chen's victory and seek a new election, citing voting irregularities and a record 330,000 spoiled ballots.
The High Court did not release any recount results. But Chen's Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) said the recount had not found any signs of vote rigging and showed the outcome would not be reversed.
Some 23,000 of the disputed votes had belonged to Chen, while 16,000 had come from Lien, DPP secretary-general Chang Chun-hsiung told a news conference.
"Even if all the disputed ballots are ruled invalid, the difference would not be enough to overturn the result."
The DPP said about 160,000 spoiled ballots had been intended to vote for Chen, compared with 80,000 for Lien. The Election Commission says most invalid ballots were rejected because voters had marked their choices outside designated squares.
"The election is over. The ball game is over," DPP deputy secretary-general Lee Ying-yuan said.
The defeated Nationalist Party said the recount supported its suspicion of election fraud.
"We have found out more than enough irregularities to
suspect legitimately that they were committed systematically," Nationalist
Party secretary-general Lin Feng-cheng said. "We'll get to the bottom and
find out the truth and have justice done."
Most people view the recount as the last word in the drawn-out dispute that has paralyzed policy in one of Asia's most vibrant democracies and sparked violent street protests.
Chen, who has infuriated China with his vision of an independent Taiwan, is set to begin his second four-year term Thursday as scheduled, without waiting for the High Court ruling.
The court must examine every disputed ballot and make a ruling in a process that could take days, if not weeks. Lawyers for both sides would also start checking lists of eligible voters and that could take at least another month.
With the inauguration looming, police have stepped up security around the presidential palace and rounded up gangsters to ensure an incident-free inauguration. Chen is to deliver his speech behind bulletproof glass.
The opposition plans a protest on that day.
In an unexpected move, the main opposition Nationalist Party plans to discuss a proposal to merge with the splinter People First Party at a meeting Wednesday.
"We hope the merger will consolidate opposition forces and create a strong balancing power," Wang Jin-pyng, parliament speaker and a Nationalist vice chairman, told reporters.
People First Chairman James Soong quit the Nationalist Party to run for a maverick presidential bid four years ago, while Lien ran as the Nationalist standard bearer. The three-way race handed Chen the victory, ending more than five decades of Nationalist rule.
Lien and Soong reconciled and formed a joint presidential ticket but failed to unseat Chen in the 2004 elections.