Mon, Mar 22, 2004 - Page 3 News List

Lien demands an immediate recount

PROTEST Addressing pan-blue demonstrators at the Presidential Office, the defeated KMT leader said he wants a recount, but the Cabinet said to let the legal system rule on the matter

By Huang Tai-lin  /  STAFF REPORTER

A pan-blue campaign truck rams into the gate of the Kaohsiung District Prosecutors' Office while demonstrators try to push the gate over early yesterday morning.

PHOTO: CHU MEI-HSIUNG, TAIPEI TIMES

Stressing that he wants the result of Saturday's election to be annulled, defeated presidential contender Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Lien Chan (連戰) yesterday asked the High Court to immediately start inspecting the ballot boxes in a transparent and open process.

He also suggested that a special medical and criminal task force be created to investigate the shooting of President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) on the eve of Saturday's vote.

"Chen should come forward soon and address our concerns, so that the people here can go home with peace of mind," Lien told thousands of pan-blue supporters yesterday afternoon in front of the Presidential Office.

The Cabinet, however, turned down those two requests last night, saying that since both the ballot inspection application and the shooting incident are being dealt with through the legal system, the Executive Yuan should not try to interfere with the independent operation of the legal system.

"The Premier has ordered the National Police

Administration to enhance the efforts in protecting those ballots as well as to publicize evidence from the gunshot incident," said Lin Chia-lung (林佳龍), a Cabinet spokesman.

"The Cabinet has done what it should do and the requests of Mr. Lien have been heard by the relevant government departments," he said. "The cabinet, therefore, should not hand out any political promises, which may violate the country's legal base and hurt Taiwan's democracy."

The crowd at the Presidential Office had been steadily growing since 4am yesterday.

The High Court yesterday announced that it would seal the ballot boxes to preserve evidence, but did not immediately order a recount as the pan-blues had demanded.

Lien expressed his gratitude that the boxes had been sealed, but said, "I hope the relevant government agencies would start examining the ballots immediately, in a transparent and open process. The sooner the better, as everyone here needs to go back to work on Monday."

Many in the crowd were pan-blue supporters who had originally gathered outside the alliance's national campaign headquarters on Saturday night, where Lien took to the stage just after 8pm and announced that he would take legal action to have the election result declared invalid.

Lien lost the election to Chen by a razor-thin margin of less than 30,000 votes.

Citing the large number of invalid ballots and his many unanswered questions relating to Friday's assassination attempt on Chen, Lien and his running mate, People First Party (PFP) Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜), called the election unfair and demanded a recount.

Just after midnight yesterday Lien and Soong reappeared outside the pan-blue campaign headquarters and staged a sit-in protest to demand a recount.

They were joined by Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平), who is also the director-general of the alliance's national campaign team, and together with several pan-blue legislators they led supporters in a demonstration to the Presidential Office at 4:10am.

At about 6:40am, Lien and Soong led the crowd in singing the national anthem before departing the scene. They reappeared later yesterday afternoon.

The growing crowd in front of the Presidential Office waved the national flags and the alliance's campaign flags and sounded blasts on air horns throughout the night.

Meanwhile, violent protests erupted in Taichung and Kaohsiung, where pan-blue supporters, led by pan-blue legislators, tried to force their way through police cordons and into local court offices to demand an immediate recount.

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