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Taiwan's Opposition Calls For Election Recount - 2004-03-21


Taiwan's opposition is calling for a recount of Saturday's presidential election ballots, after official results showed President Chen Shui-bian's narrowly winning re-election after an apparent assassination attempt.

Angry supporters of presidential opponent Lien Chan took to the streets of Taipei to protest the outcome. Police were called in to help maintain order.

The official results showed Mr. Chen won by less than 30-thousand votes. Taiwan's Election Commission said more than 300-thousand ballots were declared invalid -- 10-times Mr. Chen's electoral victory margin.

Taiwan's opposition Nationalist Party has called on the commission to re-check the invalidated ballots, and said it is filing a petition to void the election results.

Protests spread to Taiwan's third-largest city, Taichung, where hundreds of opposition supporters gathered outside a courthouse to call on officials to re-check the ballots.

The Associated Press reports a number of protesters broke through police lines and smashed some of the building's windows.

Many observers believe the president's re-election bid was helped by a last-minute sympathy vote after Mr. Chen and Vice President Annette Lu were shot and slightly wounded at a campaign appearance the day before the election.

Police have made no arrests in the case, and no one has taken responsibility for the shootings.

Although he won re-election, the president was dealt a blow when a historic referendum he was spearheading failed to pass because too many voters boycotted the vote. The referendum asked whether the island should beef up defenses against China and whether it should seek talks with Beijing.

Taiwan's Election Commission said a majority of those who voted on the two ballot issues approved them, but the total vote was less than the required 50 percent. As a result, the Commission declared that both were defeated.

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