Vote recount

Now that Taiwan’s president, Chen Shui-bian, has wisely agreed to a proposal from the opposition Nationalist Party for a prompt, legislatively ordered recount of his apparently wafer-thin re-election victory, some Nationalists seem to be having second thoughts. They seem to be calculating that their chances may be better if they can persuade a court to invalidate last weekend’s election.

That would help reinforce the democracy, which so clearly distinguishes the island from the Communist mainland. Chen is a controversial figure at home and abroad. His Democratic Progressive Party has long promoted the idea of a distinctive Taiwanese identity. President Chen’s language on independence-related issues has been ambiguous. Beijing, and most Taiwanese, believe that independence remains his ultimate goal. Washington has rightly warned against needlessly rousing the mainland’s ire.

Chen won his first term by getting 39.1 per cent of the vote in 2000. With only two main contenders in this year’s contest, he needed to increase his support above 50 per cent. Before the mysterious shooting incident last Friday, he was expected to fall just short. But the initial election results showed Chen winning with 50.1 per cent. If a recount confirms Chen as the winner, US, China and the Nationalists should embrace the democratic verdict. — The New York Times