PRESIDENT CHEN SHUI-BIAN WINS RE-ELECTION WITH TENACITY
By Lilian Wu CNA staff
Taipei, March 20 (CNA) President Chen Shui-bian has won his re-election bid with tenacity in an uphill battle which saw him close a wide gap and then win by a slim margin.
Chen, after casting his vote at a polling station in Taipei under increased protection Saturday morning after being shot by an unknown assailant the previous day on the campaign trail, assured the public that he was well, adding that, "even if a bullet knocked me down, it will not defeat the will of the 23 million people on Taiwan."
Chen showed the same tenacity throughout the presidential campaign, although the shooting which took place one day prior to the election may have also played a certain role in the closest-ever presidential election in Taiwan's history.
Until recently, the polls showed that his rival, Lien Chan, chairman of the Kuomintang, held a slim lead over the president. By election day, however, the race was neck and neck according to polls, which by law were closed 10 days prior to the March 20 election.
The election campaign featured one of the nasty war of words in Taiwan's history, with the public bombarded with daily accusations traded between rival parties.
Chen's opponents wanted the voters to focus on the lackluster performance in the nation's economy, believing it was the president's Achilles' heel, but Chen successfully maneuvered the campaign theme to focus on Taiwan's first nationwide referendum held alongside the presidential election prior to Saturday's election.
The referendum vote on increased national defense and the opening of cross-strait talks raised the concern of Taiwan's strongest supporter, the United States, as well as Japan and the European Union, but the president held fast to the planned vote.
On Feb. 28, or the nation's Peace Day, supporters of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party successfully mobilized more than one million to hold a mammoth "hand-in-hand" human chain along the island to show its opposition to the nearly 500 missiles deployed by mainland China against Taiwan, giving a big boost to his campaign.
The rival "pan-blue" camp countered by staging big rallies in southern, central and southern Taiwan, which claimed attendance of two million, on March 13.
President Chen, who was elected in 2000 in a five-way race with only 39.3 percent of the vote, with his two major rivals James Soong trailing behind and Lien Chan finishing a distant third, pulled in 50.12 percent of the votes in the two-candidate contest this time.
Chen, who used to claim that he was blocked by his opponents in implementing his policies, should now have more leeway with a greater mandate from its people.
President Chen Shui-bian and Vice President Annette Lu won re-election with 6,471,970, versus, 6,442,452 for Lien Chan and James Soong, the final tallies of the CEC showed.
A total of 13,252,490 votes were cast in the election out of a total number of 16,507,179 qualified voters, which represents a turnout of 80.2 percent.
(By Lilian Wu)
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