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The political standoff between Taiwan president Chen Shui-bian following his hair's-breadth victory in a contested March 20 poll and thousands of opposition supporters who took to the streets calling for a recount has eased to a halt, with the filing of two lawsuits by opposition candidate Lien Chan, RFA reports.

Taiwan's Central Election Commission officially declared Chen, together with running mate vice-president Annette Lu, the winner last week in spite of widespread protests outside the Presidential palace in Taipei and in other cities across the island.

Lien, who led a rally of half a million people in Taipei at the weekend, filed a lawsuit Monday to contest Chen's win by a margin of just 30,000 votes out of more than 13 million cast. An election-eve assassination attempt slightly injured Chen and vice-president Annette Lu and, Lien says, led to a surge in sympathy votes.

Chen also agreed to a judicial recount of the vote, and to abide by the outcome. He has asked Lien to formally contest the election in court.

"The cases, once submitted, will get the highest priority," said a spokeswoman for the High Court. "But it will be up to the judges to decide when a recount will be held."

Lien's lawyers submitted a lawsuit to nullify Chen's victory to the court late Monday, citing as the primary reason a record 330,000 invalid ballots and voting irregularities.

The suit also asked the court to clarify doubts surrounding the election-eve shooting and to rule on whether a decision to activate the national security mechanism had affected the election outcome.

Lien says some 200,000 soldiers and police�many of them his supporters�were unable to vote after the mechanism was activated. Chen says the move did not lead to any increase in military deployment.

Another lawsuit seeking to invalidate the poll, which the Nationalist hope could lead to a new election, would be filed on Tuesday or Wednesday, said party spokesman Justin Chou.

As protesters took to the streets in the political uproar that followed the poll and shootings, Beijing issued a warning that it would not stand by and watch if the island descended into turmoil.

"We will not sit by watching should the post-election situation in Taiwan get out of control, leading to social turmoil, endangering the lives and property of our flesh-and-blood brothers, and affecting stability across the Taiwan strait," Beijing's policy-making Taiwan Affairs Office said in a statement.

It took note that the result had been declared without regard to opposition complaints and the opposition was persisting with its refusal to recognize the outcome. "We are closely following the developments in Taiwan," it said.

Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) issued a rapid response to Beijing. "Communist China has no reason to criticize our internal affairs. It is crudely interfering in our internal affairs," the MAC said, expressing great dissatisfaction.

It said Taiwan, which is governed under the constitution of the Republic of China, a sovereign entity set up in China following the 1911 revolution of Dr. Sun Yat-sen, was capable of dealing with internal dissent. Chen's victory came after a bitter and hard-fought presidential campaign, in which the question of relations with China appeared to split Taiwan more or less down the middle.

"We are doing our best to maintain cross-Straits stability and have not interfered in communist China's internal affairs. We hope communist China can fully respect our laws," it said.

Meanwhile, the White House congratulated Chen Friday on his victory. While the White House recognized there were pending legal challenges to the results of the March 20 elections, Taiwan's people should be applauded for embracing established legal mechanisms and rejecting extra-legal options to resolve their differences, spokesman Scott McLellan said.

Taiwan has been governed separately from the Chinese mainland since 1949, when the KMT fled to the island after losing a civil war to the Chinese Communists under Mao Zedong. #####


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