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PRESIDENT AGREES TO IMMEDIATELY RECOUNT ELECTION VOTES

2004-03-28 00:00:47

    Taipei, March 27 (CNA) President Chen Shui-bian reiterated his agreement Saturday on an immediate recount of votes of the March 20 presidential election.

    Speaking at a press conference at the Presidential Office in response to appeals made by Lien Chan, chairman of the opposition Kuomintang (KMT), at a mass protest held in front of the Presidential Office earlier that day, Chen said as long as Lien filed a lawsuit to seek the annulment of last Saturday's presidential election, he will submit immediately a written agreement on the issue to the court, allowing an immediate recount.

    Chen, who won re-election by a slim margin of 0.228 percent or less than 30,000 votes out of the 13 million ballots cast in the presidential poll over his sole challenger -- KMT Chairman Lien -- said that he will absolutely accept the results of the proposed vote recount.

    He urged Lien and his running mate, People First Party (PFP) Chairman James Soong, to openly declare that they are also willing to accept the same results.

    The president also said that he is willing to meet Lien and Soong next Monday without any precondition.

    Touching on the rival camp's suspicions that the March 19 gun attack on Chen and his running mate -- Vice President Annette Lu -- was staged to win voters' support, the president said he supports State Public Prosecutor-General Lu Ren-fa's proposal that Dr. Henry Lee, a world-renowned Chinese-American forensic expert, and other experts recommended by the opposition camp be invited to join an independent forensic panel to get to the bottom of the shooting.

    With respect to Lien's claim that the activation of the national security mechanism following the shooting barred many soldiers and police officers from casting their ballots in the March 20 election, Chen explained that only one-ninth of the soldiers were required to stay in their barracks because of the national security mechanism activation, less than one-sixth required in the 1996 presidential election.

    More than 400,000 supporters of the opposition "pan-blue alliance", made up of the KMT and PFP, gathered in front of the Presidential Office Saturday to protest against what they described as an "unfair" presidential election which gave Chen another four-year term.

    Lien presented three appeals in the mass protest, including an immediate recount of votes, formation of an independent panel to investigate into the March 19 shooting and allowing re-voting by soldiers and police officers barred from casting their ballots due to the activation of the national security mechanism following the shooting.

(By Huang Kwang-chun)

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