Taiwan's High Court has thrown out a second bid by the opposition to overturn the result of the March presidential election, which President Chen Shui-bian won by only a slender margin. The ruling may not have laid the issue to rest.
This is the second lawsuit brought by Taiwan's Pan Blue opposition coalition, and the second time it has failed in having annulled the controversial presidential election result of March 20.
The first case was thrown out in November.
President Chen Shui-bian won the election by only 30,000 votes. His razor-thin victory followed an election-eve assassination attempt that his opponents charge was staged to win extra votes.
In Thursday's case, the Pan Blue bloc - led by the influential Kuomintang - alleged widespread administrative flaws during the March vote and questioned the legality of a referendum held on election day on relations with mainland China.
Wang Yeh-Lih, a political scientist at Taiwan's Tunghai University, says the public is ready to move on but opposition leaders are unlikely to admit defeat.
"The Pan Blue camp say they will appeal it again to the higher court, but I don't think they [the court] will change anything," he said.
Hundreds of opposition supporters Thursday rallied around the courthouse awaiting its ruling, chanting slogans against President Chen's Democratic People's Party.
The March presidential vote and legislative elections held this month have left Taiwan bitterly divided. One camp favors improving relations with Beijing, and the other - led by President Chen - is leaning toward greater independence.
Taiwan has been self-ruled since 1949, when the Nationalist government fled there after losing a civil war to the Communist Party. Beijing considers the island a renegade province, which it says it will invade if Taipei formally declares independence.
The Pan Blue camp's defeat in court Thursday has removed one obstacle to Chen's achieving his agenda.
But the court's decision comes a day after Beijing moved ahead with a proposed anti-secession law.
Mainland state news agency Xinhua said Wednesday the law will be a top priority when China's legislature reconvenes in March.
On Thursday, Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao said the anti-secession law would help contain Taiwan's pro-independence forces.
Mr. Liu says the law reinforces efforts to peacefully reunify China and Taiwan.
Details of the law remain unclear, but critics in Taiwan say Beijing could use it to justify a military intervention.