Protests Continue Over Taiwan Election

Lien denies he is manipulating the protesters, who refuse to disperse despite the expiration of their permit. Chen's party, the Democratic Progressive Party, is calling for the protesters to disperse. "This is a country ruled by law," said DPP legislator Hsiao Bi-khim. "Let's return to the legal basis."

Lien and his running mate are demanding a face-to-face meeting with Chen. Chen has agreed, but wants the protesters to disperse first. James Soong, the opposition party vice presidential candidate, told Reuters that Chen's "preconditions are unreasonable." Meanwhile, a fistfight in Parliament between opposing lawmakers greeted a motion Tuesday by the DPP to pass a retroactive law allowing for an automatic recount.

Six days have passed since the apparent assassination attempt, and the police have made no arrests. The Nationalists are using the lack of progress to bolster their case. But the police have interviewed more than 300 suspects.

"We are the ones who were shot," Chen said. "We are more eager than anyone else to find the truth." In an attempt to bolster his credibility, he released photos and hospital records detailing his treatment.

Election's Focus Has Shifted

In an increasing swirl of allegations, what was once the center of the election might easily be lost. This has really been a fight over which party represents the identity of the people of Taiwan, which is a mixture of those who fled mainland China in 1949 after the defeat by the armies of Mao Zedong and their descendants, the Chinese who came in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, and the aboriginal people who have lived here for thousands of years. During the campaign, both parties appealed to nationalist sentiments by using Hakka, Hokkien and aboriginal languages.

The majority of people who support Chen consider themselves ethnically Taiwanese, while Lien supporters include those who came over or are descended from those who fled communist China in 1949 and call themselves Chinese.

Despite allegations of fraud, Chen's party claims a marked increase in support. Four years ago, in the three-way 2000 presidential election, Chen won approximately 39 percent of the electorate. This year, although the two losing parties teamed up, Chen's support spiked by more than 10 percent. This appears to reflect the islanders' increasing identification as Taiwanese. Today, some scholars suggest that even within the ranks of the losing party, there are splits between the old and the new guard. Within the election controversy, "there is a split between the Chinese Nationalists and the new generation who call themselves Taiwanese Nationalists," said Wu Chih-Chung, assistant professor of political science at Soochow University in Taipei.

Some islanders describe the dispute about national identity as a painful feeling of inferiority. By the time I left the taxi, the driver was no longer angry and he thanked me profusely for caring enough to visit Taiwan. My Chinese language teacher, although she supports a different party, expressed a similar sentiment. "Taiwan does not receive the requisite respect from the rest of the world," she said.

On Wednesday, despite rumors of a possible agreement, the Nationalists rejected Chen's proposed automatic recount, noting that they wanted judges, not administrative officials, to conduct the recount, and saying it would be too slow. Earlier on Wednesday, the Central Election Commission announced that an automatic recount could be completed by April 3.

Lien called for the president to issue an emergency decree on the recount. Chen rejected this as unconstitutional.

With horns still blaring in the streets, the prospect of more fistfights between lawmakers, and talk of a mass rally this coming weekend, the embattled President Chen has appealed for calm.

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