Wed, Mar 24, 2004 - Page 1 News List

Chen backs calls for recount of votes

INSULTED The president said he supported requests for a recount while lashing out at critics who accused him of rigging the election and faking an assassination attempt

By Lin Chieh-yu  /  STAFF REPORTER , WITH REUTERS

Chinese Nationalist Party caucus whip Liao Feng-te, left, fights with Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Lin Feng-hsi, center, during a meeting of the legislature's Procedure Committee yesterday.

PHOTO: FANG PIN-CHAO, TAIPEI TIMES

President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) said yesterday he supported the opposition's request for an immediate recount and urged the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) to promise it would accept the final result of the recount.

Chen also lashed out at those who accused him of rigging the election.

"Those who accused me of vote-rigging are making the gravest insult to my integrity," Chen said during a meeting with the heads of the governments' five branches at the Presidential Office yesterday morning.

"Neither I nor my administration, not to mention those 200,000 staff members who took charge of the vote-counting process on March 20, would cheat in the election," he said.

"Since I did not conduct any vote-rigging, I welcome and support a public vote recount, the results of which I will 100 percent accept, no matter the outcome," Chen said.

"I also urge KMT Chairman Lien Chan (連戰) to make the same promise and I hope that he will not make any other requests after the recount."

Chen said he wanted to solve the dispute as soon as possible and wished to know why there were so many invalid ballots.

"You can propose the question and try to examine those ballots via judicial processes. You can't simply describe any invalid ballots, however, as vote-rigging," Chen said.

He asked the public to show empathy toward protesters in front of the Presidential Office, saying he could understand the protesters' feelings as he also had the experience of losing elections.

Responsibility

"I will not order the government to disperse those people," Chen said, adding that pan-blue leaders Lien and People First Party (PFP) Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜) should show responsibility and call off the illegal protest.

"You [Lien and Soong] brought people there, you should shoulder the responsibility of sending them home," Chen said.

He said a recount should be realized through either political negotiations or legal amendments.

"On March 21, the day after the presidential election, I ordered my staff and the Cabinet to work out an approach that would realize the opposition's request of launching a recount," Chen said.

"Since the case is being dealt with by the legal system, the government has no right to become involved, unless the opposition parties would like to withdraw their cases," he said.

Chen suggested two ways to realize a recount. The first involved authorizing a court and neutral task force to monitor the recount. The second was to amend the President and Vice President Election and Recall Law (選罷法) to allow the Central Election Commission to begin a recount within seven days.

Chen stressed that all politicians should abide by the law and act in accordance with the country's legal system.

"Taiwan is a democratic nation ruled by laws; therefore, the insistence on legal principles should be regarded as what we live for," he said.

Chen rejected a suggestion by Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) to issue an emergency decree to order a recount.

"The emergency decree will solve nothing and will just make things more complicated," he said.

Physical evidence

Chen also lifted his shirt to display the wound on his stomach, looking to counter conspiracy theories that suggest he staged Friday's attempted assassination.

"We are the ones who were shot. We are more eager than anyone else to find out the truth," he said.

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