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Chen Says Political Divisions Bring Crisis to Taiwan - 2004-04-12


Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian says political divisions in the aftermath of last month's disputed presidential elections have brought the island into crisis. His remarks followed violent anti-government protests.

Opinion pages in Taipei newspapers are full of concerns that the island's stability might be in danger because of continued protests over President Chen Shui-bian's re-election last month.

Mr. Chen won by a narrow margin, triggering bitter protests by supporters of the opposition KMT, the Nationalist party. The opposition is angry over what it calls election improprieties and the lack of information about an apparent attempt to assassinate the president a day before the March 20 polls.

In a speech to university students, Mr. Chen said the dispute has become a crisis that he and his party need to address. He urged an end to the divisions. He did not indicate whether his government was considering new measures to counter the opposition's claims.

On Saturday, hundreds of demonstrators clashed with police in front of the presidential palace, where tens of thousands of opposition supporters had peacefully protested earlier in the day.

President Chen agreed to a recount of the votes after Lien Chan, the KMT candidate, filed a lawsuit last month. Mr. Lien's supporters insist that the president call an independent commission to investigate the assassination attempt, in which Mr. Chen and Vice President Annette Lu were slightly wounded.

KMT supporters say the shooting cost their party votes, and have insinuated the president's supporters may have staged it to win sympathy votes.

The lengthy controversy alarms some observers in Taiwan, who worry it might be pushing the island to political chaos. Peter Nan-shong Lee is a politics professor at National Chun Cheng University.

?People believe they ought to move on and people already repeatedly said that this will involve heavy social costs if they continue this kind of protests,? Mr. Lee said.

Mr. Lien's supporters hint they will continue to protest until Mr. Chen gives in to their demands. Senator Yih-Jiau Hwang was among the opposition politicians at Saturday's rally in Taipei. He says Mr. Lien's supporters are not ready to stop protesting.

?We are not troublemakers. We are just asking for a reasonable, humble request to form an independent investigation commission,? Senator Hwang said. ?The president has the power in his hands and has the keys in his hands to (end) all these controversies.?

Despite concerns, there are signs that the controversy might ease soon, with political analysts predicting the opposition will turn its attention to legislative elections scheduled for next month.

On Monday, Taiwan's stock market closed at its highest level since the election.

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