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VOICE OF AMERICA
SLUG: 2-314625 Taiwan / Politics
DATE:
NOTE NUMBER:

DATE=03/31/04

TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT

TITLE=TAIWAN POL (L-ONLY)

NUMBER=2-314625

BYLINE=HEDA BAYRON

DATELINE=HONG KONG

CONTENT=

VOICED AT:

INTRO: Taiwan's High Court says it will start hearing a petition for a recount later this week, but the opposition says it will demand new elections. V-O-A Heda Bayron reports from Hong Kong.

TEXT: The opposition Koumintang, or K-M-T, is not backing down from challenging the results of Taiwan's March 20th election, which President Chen Shui-bian won by a slim margin.

A K-M-T spokesman said Wednesday the party is preparing to file a second petition, this time demanding the election be nullified and a new vote be held.

The K-M-T earlier petitioned for a recount. The High Court on Friday will start hearing arguments from both sides on the issue.

The opposition charged widespread irregularities occurred during the polls. It questioned a controversial election-eve shooting of the president and the vice president - suggesting it may have been staged.

President Chen has denied those allegations, but has agreed to a recount. An investigation into the assassination attempt is now underway.

Mr. Chen defeated his rival Lien Chan by only 30-thousand votes out of the 13 million cast. But more than 300-thousand ballots were deemed invalid.

/// OPT ///

The political turmoil, which saw thousands of people protesting on the streets of Taipei, has sparked selling in the stock market and raised concerns over the stability in the Taiwan Strait.

/// END ACT ///

Philip Yang, a political science professor at National Taiwan University, says the crisis is unprecedented in Taiwan's young democracy. This is only the island's third presidential election.

/// YANG ACT ///

The major problem is we lack this kind of experience before, we lack a comprehensive legal system on this issue. And the very nature of this incident - the political implications and consequences - actually make everybody try to fight to the very bitter end, try to win over the recount.

/// END ACT ///

Analysts say the close election shows a deep divide in Taiwan over its future. President Chen's Democratic Progressive Party favors an independent Taiwan although President Chen previously distanced himself from that position. On the other hand, the K-M-T seeks closer relations with China.

Beijing considers Taiwan as a breakaway province, which eventually must be reunited with the mainland, by force if necessary. (Signed)

NEB/HK/HB/KPD



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