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Taiwan Legislators Working on Compromise to Allow Election Recount - 2004-03-26

Taiwan's legislators are working out a compromise law to allow a recount in Saturday's presidential election, decided by a margin of less than one percentage point. Protests over the election results have delayed the expected declaration of President Chen Shui-bian as the official winner of the election.

Supporters of defeated presidential candidate Lien Chan refuse to end their massive street demonstration in front of the Presidential Office, until their concerns over the election are addressed.

Mr. Lien's first priority is a recount of the votes, including the 2.5 percent of the ballots originally ruled invalid.

National legislators have been arguing all week over technicalities in a new bill that would allow a recount in any elections decided by less than a percentage point of the vote. It would cover last Saturday's vote.

Mr. Lien and his opposition party alliance also are demanding an investigation into an apparent assassination attempt against incumbent President Chen Shui-bian one day before his narrow re-election victory.

Some opposition supporters say the attack, in which Mr. Chen and his vice president were lightly wounded, may have been staged.

The motive, they say, was to help the president win a sympathy vote and allow him to declare a state of alert, which allegedly prevented thousands of police and military from voting.

Emile Sheng, a political scholar with Taiwan's Soochow University, says the recount - already agreed to by Mr. Chen - offers Mr. Lien's only chance to change the election outcome.

But he says the opposition has little real chance of undoing President Chen's victory over any findings from an investigation into the assassination attempt.

"I think it's quite unlikely … simply because the opposition party did not contest the election before it was held," he said. "On the night [after] the gunshot happened, they didn't ask for a pause of the election."

Police have yet to name a suspect in the shooting.

But law enforcement officials said Friday they are seeking to question a man caught on a security camera apparently fleeing the area just after the attack.

Also Friday, the island's election commission formally declared President Chen the winner in the election, pending the recount. A scuffle by opposition supporters delayed the announcement in the afternoon.

Mr. Lien plans to lead a protest march Saturday to show his refusal to recognize the results.