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Polls Close in Taiwan as Voters Elect New, Smaller Legislature

Andrew Ryan

Polling stations have closed in Taiwan, where voters are electing representatives to a revamped legislature. The election is seen as an indicator of how voters will act in the March presidential elections. Andrew Ryan has the story from Taipei.

Saturday's legislative elections were the first to use a new system that cuts the number of seats from 225 to 115.

Once votes are counted, there will be just one representative for each district, instead of several.

Analysts are predicting a win for the opposition Kuomintang (KMT), which had a slight majority in the legislature before the vote. The party projected it would take about 68 seats, but said many races would be close.

The ruling Democratic Progressive Party was hoping to take about 45 to 50 percent of the seats. Analysts say that will be difficult, because voters are dissatisfied with the DPP-led government.

President Chen Shui-bian and first lady Wu Shu-chen visited a polling station in Taipei Saturday morning.

Mr. Chen urged Taiwan's citizens to exercise their hard-earned right to vote. He pointed out that Hong Kong, which has been under China's rule for ten years, will have to wait another ten years before its citizens might be able to elect their leaders.

There was concern going into Saturday's elections that voter turnout would be low due to a lack of voter interest.

But the Central Election Commission said a new system of choosing legislators could bring out more voters. The commission predicted the voter turnout rate would be more than 60 percent - higher than the previous legislative election.

Election officials say the final vote tallies should be available by 10:30 p.m. Taiwan time or 14:30 UTC.

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