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Election Victory a Boost for Taiwan President's Pro-Independence Party


Taiwan's President Chen Shui-bian casts his vote for the National Assembly elections

Commentators in Taiwanese newspapers say the results of Saturday's special constitutional election in Taiwan have given a boost to President Chen Shui-bian and his pro-independence party.

Analysts said Beijing was likely to be disappointed, although officials here had no immediate reaction to the poll results.

In the past month, the Chinese Communist party has hosted two leaders of the Taiwan opposition in moves that analysts say were meant to undermine Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian, whose party advocates independence for the self-governed island.

Taiwan's vice president, Annette Lu, said her party's strong showing Saturday suggests Beijing's plan backfired.

"We thank the Chinese Communist Party because each time there is pressure from China, the Taiwanese people show that it is democracy that they embrace," she said.

With a voter turnout of only 23 percent, Mr. Chen's Democratic Progressive Party won 127 seats, a majority, in the 300-seat National Assembly, a specially created temporary body that is to decide on constitutional reforms. The rival Nationalist Party, the Kuomintang, which does not rule out eventual reunification with the mainland and has sought closer ties with Beijing, won 117 seats.

The assembly delegates will decide on several issues, including reducing the size of parliament, extending the terms of legislators, and enshrining referenda as the means by which Taiwan will decide all matters of the constitution in the future.

China views any discussion of the island's constitution with suspicion and has opposed President Chen's efforts for a new constitution as yet another move toward independence.

Beijing claims Taiwan is part of its territory and has vowed to attack the island if it moves toward formal independence. Tensions rose in March when China enacted an anti-secession law giving itself license to use non-peaceful means if Taiwan goes in that direction.

The United States has called on both sides to avoid doing anything that would upset the island's status quo. Washington has also called on China to negotiate directly with the elected government of Chen Shui-bian, saying it is the only way to finding a long-term solution to the cross-strait issue.