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Taiwan President Will Not Oppose Recount - 2004-03-23

Taiwan's president says he will not oppose opposition demands for a recount of Saturday's election, which he won narrowly. A proposed new law mandating such a recount does not satisfy the opposition's complaints.

President Chen Shui-bian urged passage of a new law Tuesday to allow for recounts in all elections where the margin of victory is less than one percent, including Saturday's presidential vote.

But supporters of opposition candidate Lien Chan dismiss the election recount law as a ploy, saying the Chen administration could just as easily order a recount on its own.

Legislators supporting Mr. Chen and those supporting Mr. Lien scuffled Tuesday at the start of a committee meeting on the legislation.

Political science professor Philip Yang says that while the legislation may be a delaying tactic, it is still necessary to handle possible problems in the future. "This will be one of the strategies used by the government to delay the whole process or to calm down the international pressure," said Professor Yang. "That seems like it's very obvious. But I still think this is the right thing to do."

Lien supporters have been holding street protests since the election, demanding a recount and an investigation into alleged election fraud.

They also accuse Mr. Chen of staging an assassination attempt the day before the election. The president and Vice President Annette Lu were shot and lightly wounded while in a campaign parade.

Lien supporters say the incident swayed the vote in the president's favor and that a state of emergency called after the shooting prevented thousands of police officers and soldiers from voting.

Tuesday, President Chen angrily denied the allegations, saying he too wants answers about the shooting. Mr. Chen said it is extremely regrettable that people are accusing him of faking the shooting. Police with Taiwan's Criminal Investigation Bureau say they have questioned several hundred witnesses but have yet to come up with any suspects.

Bureau Commissioner How Yu Ih says the two bullets fired at the president and his running mate were probably shot by a single attacker using a homemade gun. He said the investigation is leading in many directions, and that police cannot rule out any particular motive or group.

Losing candidate Lien Chan has called for a meeting with the president to settle all controversies over the election. He said a recount alone will not satisfy the opposition and that the argument over the election is jeopardizing Taiwan's democracy.

Mr. Lien also denied that he has the power to disperse the protests that continue around the island on his behalf.