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Taiwan's High Court Begins Hearings on Recount Petition - 2004-04-02

Taiwan's high court has begun hearings on the main opposition party's petition for a recount in the island's presidential elections last month.

The first day of hearings Friday ended with the Taiwanese High Court giving lawyers for President Chen Shui-bian and challenger Lien Chan five days to work on their cases. The two sides are to work out procedures and methods for a recount of the votes.

Lawyers for Mr. Lien, the head of the Nationalist Party, or KMT, had filed a lawsuit asking the court to annul the election results, which showed President Chen as the winner by a mere 30,000 votes.

"We are contesting the result because we think it's a highly unfair election," said Su Chi, a KMT party spokesman. "There were many vote irregularities during the election process."

President Chen has consented to a recount, but the two parties disagree on how it should be carried out and who should pay for it. Lawyers for Mr. Chen's Democratic Progressive Party say the recount could end up costing millions of dollars.

KMT attorneys say the alleged irregularities include a suspiciously large number of invalid ballots.

Attorneys for Mr. Lien's party say only the invalid ballots and those cast for Mr. Chen should be recounted, in order to save money.

The president's party is demanding a full recount.

The election dispute triggered protests in Taiwan by Lien supporters, who demonstrated for days in front of the presidential palace in Taipei.

Officials in China, which considers the self-governed island a part of its territory, have been watching the events closely. Chinese officials strongly oppose Mr. Chen, fearing that his party may be pushing the island closer to declaring formal independence.