Sun, Mar 28, 2004 - Page 1 News List

Chen replies to pan-blue rally request

ACTIONJust hours after 468,000 people took part in a Taipei rally to demand that Chen hold an election recount, the president said he would welcome one

By Huang Tai-lin and Joy Su  /  STAFF REPORTER

Tens of thousands of protestors flood Ketagalan Boulevard in front of the Presidential Office, creating a roaring sea of humanity and national flags yesterday.

PHOTOS: CHIANG YING-YING, TAIPEI TIMES

President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) responded to a massive Taipei rally yesterday, saying that as long as the pan-blue presidential contenders were willing to file either an annulment or a recount lawsuit, he would allow for an immediate and complete ballot recount regardless of whether evidence of election fraud is provided.

"I am not afraid of the recount, and it is my commitment to completely accept the results of the recount whether or not they are in my favor. I hope that [Chinese Nationalist Party] KMT Chairman Lien Chan (連戰) and [People First Party] PFP Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜) will be able to do the same," Chen said.

"I will sign a letter of consensus to allow for an immediate recount. Lien and Soong will not have to wait for the case to be tried in court, nor will they have to provide evidence of election fraud," said Chen, explaining that it would be almost impossible for a recount to be mandated by a court based on evidence of legal violations.

Chen made the remark late last night in response to the requests set forth by the pan-blue camp's rally yesterday.

Chen also retracted a previous request that Lien and Soong disperse the rally on Ketagalan Boulevard before meeting with him. Chen said that he hoped to meet with the two pan-blue leaders on Monday unconditionally since Lien and Soong had both said the crowds had been out of their control .

Chen went on the stress however that this did not mean that the protesters could continue to camp out on Ketagalan Boulevard forever, citing the needs of schools and hospitals in the area.

"I will order law enforcers to clear up the Ketagalan Boulevard on Monday," where an estimated 4000 pan-blue supporters still refused to leave, Chen said.

"I hope Mayor Ma [Ying-jeou (馬英九)] can keep his word and fulfill his promise [to dismiss the crowd after 6pm yesterday]," added Chen.

Earlier in the day, thousands of tour buses flooded in from parts of Taiwan to Ketagalan Boulevard in Taipei yesterday afternoon in support of Lien's call for a ballot recount.

Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Hsiao Bi-khim (蕭美琴) expressed disappointment that Lien and his running mate, People First Party (PFP) James Soong (宋楚瑜), didn't tell the crowd that the president has agreed days ago to a recount and an independent investigation into the attempted assassaination of Chen in Tainan.

Hsiao also noted that Lien and Soong didn't say whether they'd accept the results of a recount.

"This is really regrettable," she said.

At the rally, which was entitled "sustain justice, salvage democracy and we want the truth," Lien told the crowd that his appeals were not self-serving, but were part of his heartfelt concern over the entire country's democratization.

"What we are striving for here is not about an individual's position or a party's success or failure," Lien said. "We are here because we are concerned whether the country's ruling government has acquired its power through trickery, and thus its authority is ineffective, not real and deserves no respect."

Lien, who joined forces with Soong on a single ticket repre-senting the KMT-PFP alliance, lost the presidential race to Chen by less than 30,000 votes, or a margin of only0.2 percent.

Citing voting irregularities and questioning the official version of Chen's assassination attempt, Lien called the election unfair and refused to concede defeat.

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