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SLUG: 6-130312 Taiwan Election









INTRO: Many American newspapers are commenting on Taiwan's recent and -- some would say -- bizarre presidential election. Just one day before last Saturday's [3-20] balloting, President Chen Shui-bian was shot and wounded while campaigning. His vice president, Annette Lu was also slightly wounded.

The next day, President Chen, who favors more independence from China, eked out a narrow victory [30,000 votes out of the 13.3-million cast] over the Nationalist candidate, Lien Chan. Some of Mr. Lien's supporters say the shooting was staged to gain a sympathy vote. As the island nation gears up for a recount to determine the winner, we get a sampling of U-S reaction in today's U-S Opinion Roundup.

TEXT: There are concerns in several papers that the increasingly partisan bickering between the two main political parties could erode Taiwan's nascent democracy. Denver's [Colorado] Rocky Mountain News writes:

VOICE: We've seen this before: a presidential election that is close to a draw, allegations of voting irregularities, demands for a recount and the whole controversy headed for the high court. This is n-o-t Florida, 2000, but Taiwan, 2004. Taiwan, however, has been a democracy only since 1990, and it's important for the future of that democracy that the election be settled quickly and credibly.... A quick resolution is important for another reason. Mainland China, which claims sovereignty over Taiwan, would like an excuse to say, "See, democracy doesn't work. It's antithetical to Chinese society and culture."

TEXT: Views of the Rocky Mountain News. Just how high the stakes in this drama are is analyzed by Boston's Christian Science Monitor.

VOICE: Taiwan's identity as a nation separate from China hangs on a ballot recount of Saturday's squeaker ["extremely close"] election.... The recount has Beijing, Washington, and even Hong Kong on edge. In fact, one newspaper in Hong Kong (which faces its own critical election in September), reports that China's military is on alert. If true, that would be typical of Beijing's heavy-handed way of trying to influence Taiwan's vibrant and oft-times chaotic democracy.

TEXT: Looking beyond the shooting and "razor-thin" victory, The Washington Post says the apparent result:

VOICE: ... sends a message to Beijing and Washington. Taiwan's people don't want to provoke China with an outright declaration of independence, but they aren't going to bow to China either. Beijing's assertion that there is just "one China" -- an assertion that has long served the U-S interest in avoiding a war [involving the U-S] ... is increasingly at odds with Taiwan's de facto emergence as a vibrant democracy.

... the Bush administration, which has tried to restrain Mr. Chen's pro-independence leanings, needs to rethink its position too. Whatever the outcome of the island's Florida-style crisis, neither Mr. Chen nor the sentiment he represents are likely to disappear.

TEXT: The opinion of The Washington [D-C] Post. In Washington State, what to do next is the question pondered by The Seattle Times, which warns annulling the election, as some have suggested. The paper writes:

VOICE: An election is a polling of sentiment on one day. That day cannot be brought back. To annul it means to discard what people said on that one day. Annul an election once, and you will be called upon to do it again. And always by the losers -- because annulling an election is usually a partisan act.... A recount is different. It is an attempt to look more closely at a decision voters already made. A well-administered recount would be useful in the election ... in which [President] Chen's margin was some 30-thousand votes, and in which 337-thousand votes were ruled spoiled.... If democracy is intact, there is always the next election.... Only in dictatorships are elections never in doubt.

TEXT: Lastly this observation from western Pennsylvania and Pittsburgh's Post-Gazette.

VOICE: Americans must ... congratulate Mr. Chen and Ms. Lu on not having been seriously hurt and on their electoral victory. The [U-S] can hope that Mr. Chen will not take his having been elected to a second term, particularly by such a narrow margin, as a mandate to push for Taiwanese independence, thus provoking the Beijing Chinese. No one needs trouble in that part of the world now, [especially] ... the United States.

TEXT: That assessment from The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette ends this sampling of editorial comment on Taiwan's recent election.


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