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Taiwan High Court Endorses President's Contested Election Win  - 2004-11-04

Taiwan's high court has upheld President Chen Shui-bian's contested victory in March elections. Opposition leaders filed a lawsuit accusing the president of staging his own botched assassination one day before the vote and other irregularities.

The Taiwanese high court Thursday dismissed charges of gross fraud and vote tampering in March's presidential election.

The lawsuit, one of two contesting the ballot, accused President Chen Shui-bian of planning his own election eve shooting to win extra votes.

The president ended up winning by only 30,000 votes, less than .3 percent of the total cast.

Filed by opposition leader Lien Chan, the suit also claimed the president illegally held a key referendum on Taiwan's relations with China on Election Day. The court rejected the claim.

The verdict Thursday comes after seven months of legal challenges, ballot recounts, intense debate and sometimes-violent political confrontation.

Political scientist Emile Sheng in Taipei says people in Taiwan, regardless of their politics, now appear willing to recognize - if not support - the president.

"Although his legitimacy will always be questioned most people have already accepted that he's going to be the president for the next four years," he said.

Wednesday, government officials asked the opposition to remain calm and not stage a fresh round of public protests following the court's decision.

And while protests are likely, Mr. Sheng says the anger and political vitriol seem to be softening. Indeed, he warns the biggest problem today is not an escalation of political conflict but growing political apathy.

"People are tired of politics right now in Taiwan, especially after this massive amount of confrontation after the presidential election," he said. "A big portion of them lose faith in the whole political system."

A fresh round of legislative elections are scheduled for December 11. Mr. Sheng says he predicts voter turnout could plummet to an historic low.

Meanwhile a second lawsuit is still moving forward, this one challenging the election commission's decision not to suspend the vote after the shooting.