Fri, Dec 31, 2004 - Page 1 News List

Court throws out second lawsuit

ELECTION The second of the pan-blue lawsuits trying to annul the presidential election was dismissed yesterday

STAFF WRITER

A pan-blue supporter tries to beat a policeman to vent his frustration at hearing that the High Court had rejected the suit to invalidate the March 20 presidential election outside the courts yesterday.

PHOTO: GEORGE TSORNG, TAIPEI TIMES

The Taiwan High Court yesterday threw out the second of the pan-blue lawsuits seeking to annul the result of the March 20 presidential election.

"The lawsuit is overruled," said presiding judge Cheng Ya-ping (鄭雅萍) announcing the verdict. "The opposition can appeal within 20 days of receiving the verdict."

The High Court rejected the pan-blue legal team's claim that there were more than 900,000 ballots which had been illegally distributed in polling stations.

"After double-checking by the plaintiff's and the defendant's legal teams, only some 3,700 defective ballots were identified, which did not affect the election result," said the ruling.

According to the Central Election Commission's (CEC) announcement on March 20, President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) and Vice President Annette Lu (呂秀蓮). won re-election against Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Lien Chan (連戰) and People First Party (PFP) Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜) by 29,518 votes.

But according to the ruling by the Taiwan High Court over another lawsuit filed by the KMT and PFP to nullify the election result through a recount of the ballots, Chen and Lu's margin of victory was reduced to 25,563 votes.

Regarding the pan-blue legal team's claim that the CEC's holding of a referendum simultaneously with the presidential election was illegal, the High Court said that before a constitutional interpretation was given over the controversy, the CEC was simply an administrative agency, which organized elections on instructions from the government.

The court also threw out the claim that a referendum held simultaneously with the presidential election violated the principle of a secret ballot.

"The KMT and PFP argued that whether voters had picked referendum ballots revealed which ticket they might have voted for. In fact, voters' refusal to pick up referendum ballots resulted from the pan-blue camp's call to boycott the referendum, which had nothing to do with the polling stations' design of a U-shaped line of movement. Therefore, one cannot say a referendum held simultaneously with the election violated the principle of the secret ballot," the ruling said.

The judges also did not agree with the pan-blue camp's claim that the national security mechanism triggered by the assassination attempt targeting Chen and Lu on March 19 had an impact on the election result in favor of the Chen-Lu ticket.

"Since no evidence shows the mechanism increased the number of military and police personnel on alert, therefore resulting in their failure to vote, one cannot say the mechanism affected the election result," according to the ruling.

In response to the ruling, the Presidential Office yesterday stated its respect for the Taiwan High Court's ruling. Calling on the public to also respect the court's verdict, the Presidential Office added that it hoped both the ruling and the opposition parties could work together for the good of national development and the people's welfare.

Attorney Chang Shi-hsing (張世興), who attended the court yesterday on behalf of the CEC, said the ruling cleared the name of the nearly 180,000 election personnel.

"As for some election process defects, [the CEC] still has room to improve. But [the verdict] also shows not a single CEC election official was involved in cheating" Chang said.

Cabinet Spokesman Chen Chi-mai (陳其邁) called for reconciliation and cooperation among political parties following yesterday's court ruling.

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