Lawmakers scuffle over Taiwan vote

Recount proposal debated for presidential election

March 24, 2004|By Tyler Marshall and Tsai Ting-I | Tyler Marshall and Tsai Ting-I,LOS ANGELES TIMES

TAIPEI, Taiwan - Parliament's first attempt to end Taiwan's post-election political crisis degenerated into fisticuffs yesterday as rival legislators pushed and shoved one another before the session was adjourned in disarray.

Scuffles broke out as members debated an amendment to election rules that would allow an immediate recount of last weekend's disputed presidential balloting - a proposal widely seen as the first step out of the turmoil that has gripped the island since opposition candidate Lien Chan refused to accept President Chen Shui-bian's narrow victory.

After emotions cooled, another group of delegates met behind closed doors and reportedly resumed talks.

The legislators met to discuss a proposal offered by Chen that would make recounts mandatory for any election in which the margin of victory is less than 1 percentage point. Emotions boiled over after opposition lawmakers accused Chen of stalling, saying he could easily order the recount by decree.

Lien said Monday that he would accept the results of any recount, and Chen followed with a similar statement yesterday.

"I won't object to a full recount if that helps establish the truth," Chen said.

Chen won by two-tenths of a percentage point after a bitter campaign that concluded with an election-eve shooting in which Chen and Vice President Annette Lu were wounded. His opponents say the attack was staged to win the president sympathy votes, which Chen denies.

Lien's refusal to accept the results plunged the island into political uncertainty, triggered protests and sporadic violence. Stocks on the Taiwan exchange tumbled for the second straight day as the market lost nearly 3 percent of its value. It fell by twice that Monday.

Lien has challenged the election's validity in Taiwan's high court, citing numerous irregularities and calling for an investigation into the circumstances surrounding Friday's shooting.

The Los Angeles Times is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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