Sun, Jan 28, 2007 - Page 3 News List

Bullets cost me votes: president

ELECTION-EVE SHOOTING Chen Shui-bian said in a CNN interview that if he had not needed medical care, he could have gone on more rallies and won by a wider margin

By Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER

President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) said he would have won more votes in the 2004 presidential election had it not been for the attempt on his life.

Speaking in an interview with CNN last week, which aired yesterday noon in Taiwan on the station's Talk Asia program, Chen said that he and his running mate, Vice President Annette Lu (呂秀蓮), were leading their challengers by 2.1 points in a poll conducted a day before the election.

"If it were not for that incident, we would have garnered more support in the rally organized on the eve of the election," Chen said.

assassination

The president was referring to the attempted assassination on March 19, 2004, in which bullets grazed Chen's stomach and hit Lu's knee while the pair was campaigning in Tainan.

Chen defeated the joint ticket of then Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) chairman Lien Chan (連戰) and People First Party chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜) in the March 20 election by a margin of less than 30,000 votes.

Chen said in the interview that he was very upset upon learning that the rest of the campaign rallies would be canceled because of the incident.

"I honestly did not know I was hit by a bullet and needed medical care. I thought it was firecrackers," he said.

While some have argued that the assassination attempt was staged, Chen said he and Lu did not need to put their lives in danger, as they were sure they would win.

"I believe such an assumption was cooked up by those who refuse to accept defeat," he said.

Chen said that while Taiwan's transition from authoritarianism to a democracy has been bumpy and shaky, Taiwanese are willing to face the challenges and make sacrifices if necessary.

a normal country

As the national leader, Chen vowed to turn Taiwan into a normal country, adding that Taiwan has yet to achieve normalization because the Constitution did not obtain the approval of the people.

"The 23 million people of Taiwan need a new constitution that is timely, relevant and viable," he said.

Chen said he was pleased to see that more than 60 percent of the public now identify themselves as Taiwanese, compared with 36 percent when he was first elected as president in 2000. He added that he would like to see the figure rise to 70 percent or 75 percent before he leaves office next year.

Describing the "state affairs fund" case as a political issue, Chen said Taiwan was experiencing the growing pains of an evolving democracy but he believed the judicial system would eventually prove his innocence.

When asked whether he would be willing to testify and defend himself in court after leaving office, Chen said "absolutely," because everybody must respect and follow the law.

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