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Opposition Demonstrators in Taiwan Demand Presidential Election Recount - 2004-04-03

Tens of thousands of opposition supporters took to the streets of Taiwan's capital Saturday to protest President Chen Shui-bian's close election victory.

The demonstrators called for a recount and demanded an independent investigation into an election-eve shooting of the president they say might have been staged to win him sympathy votes.

President Chen won the March 20th election by about 30,000 votes, a margin of less than .25 percent. The president and Vice President Annette Lu were slightly injured in a shooting the night before the voting.

The losing opposition candidate, Lien Chan, said the shooting prompted a large number of sympathy votes for the president. In a speech to demonstrators at the Taipei rally, Mr. Lien called the incident suspicious and demanded the government agree to an independent investigation.

Taiwan's feuding political parties have already agreed to a recount of the presidential vote. But they have not agreed on how it should be done and who should pay for it. Taiwan's High Court on Friday ordered the parties to work out procedures and a method for the recount within five days.

The court is expected to resume its hearing next week. A second opposition lawsuit demands that the election be nullified and that a new vote be held.

Various estimates put the cost of a recount at more than $1 million (US) dollars. Taiwan's Election Commission has said it would take two days to recount the votes.