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Last Updated: Tuesday, 23 March, 2004, 09:39 GMT
Taiwan leader denies vote-rigging
Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian
Mr Chen's victory has split Taiwan
President Chen Shui-bian has denied allegations over vote-rigging in Taiwan's close-run election.

"They have labelled me a vote-rigging president, and this is the biggest humiliation to my character," he told Taiwanese television.

Mr Chen spoke amid claims the shooting that lightly injured him last Friday may have been staged to win sympathy.

He was re-elected by only 0.2% of the vote - a day after the apparent assassination attempt.

Chen Shui-bian: 6,471,970 (50.11%)
Lien Chan: 6,442,452 (49.89%)
337,297 invalid ballots
Turnout: 80.28%
Source: Central Election Commission

Opposition leader Lien Chan has called for the vote to be invalidated and ballots recounted, after his defeat.

However, a row in parliament erupted between ruling and opposition legislators, preventing them from agreeing on the recount motion.

Scuffles broke out at a committee meeting that was needed to approve the proposal.

The legislators then stormed out of the room, with those from the governing party accusing their opponents of not wanting a recount, but social chaos instead.

'Delaying tactics'

Mr Chen has proposed a change in the law to allow a recount to take place.

Scuffles in the Taiwanese Parliament
A row erupted between ruling and opposition legislators

The legal change will allow recounts where the margin of victory is less than 1%, and could be retroactive, allowing an immediate recount.

President Chen says that because the election result is now subject to a legal challenge by the opposition that could take months, the only appropriate step is to change the law.

The opposition, who hold a slim majority in parliament, say this is a delaying tactic. They argue the president could order an immediate recount if he really wanted to.

Shooting claims

Speaking on television for the first time since his victory speech on Saturday night, President Chen said he hoped a single election would not divide Taiwan.

"Some people have asked if the shooting was real or faked. I could understand such doubts because the campaign was so heated," Mr Chen said.

And he said he resented the election fraud allegations.

But the president said he wanted officials to quickly do a recount to address all doubts.

"I will accept it 100 percent, absolutely accept it," he said.

It seems President Chen has decided he has no alternative but to agree to the opposition's demands for a recount, says the BBC's Chris Hogg in Taipei.

The row has sparked a sharp fall in share prices on Taiwan's stock market, with the main index dropping over 4% in early trading on Tuesday.

On Monday, the index plunged 6.68%.

China pressure

More than 330,000 votes were declared invalid in the presidential election - three times that of the last poll in 2000.

However, a group opposing both main parties had campaigned for voters to submit blank papers as a protest.

The election also involved Taiwan's first island-wide referendum, a vote on China's military threat and possible peace talks with Beijing.

The referendum failed to pass because more than half the voters joined an opposition-led boycott of the vote.

But on Tuesday, China's official Xinhua News Agency sided with the opposition and accused Chen of "political fraud" and trying to "kidnap the will of the Taiwanese people" with the referendum.

The BBC's Chris Hogg
"The votes themselves are under lock and key, ballot boxes sealed by the courts"

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