Recount begins in controversial Taipei mayoral race

Ting Shou-chung (丁守中) of the Kuomintang, who lost to the independent incumbent Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) by 3,254 votes.

Taipei, Dec. 3 (CNA) The Taipei District Court on Monday started a recount of the ballots in the Nov. 24 Taipei mayoral election, after the incumbent’s razor-thin win was challenged by one of the other two candidates.

Ting Shou-chung (丁守中) of the Kuomintang, who lost to the independent incumbent Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) by 3,254 votes in the first count on election night, requested a recount four days later and paid the NT$4.28 million (US$141,200) fee, citing irregularities and major flaws in the voting process.

For instance, it was widely reported that votes were being counted and the results released before the polls closed in Shilin District, which allowed voters to check the results online while they were waiting to cast their ballots, Ting said.

“The recount is an opportunity to seek the truth and for citizens to know what the facts are,” Ting told the press Monday at the Taipei City Election Commission, where the district court was conducting the recount.

The district court has deployed 50 teams for the recount, each comprising a judge, a court clerk, two polling clerks, and several lawyers representing Ko and Ting.

Ting said he hopes the recount process will be completed within 10 days, after which he and his lawyers will decide whether to file a lawsuit to annul the results of the Taipei mayoral election or to invalidate Ko’s status.

Ko, however, said he is not worried that the recount will lead to his loss of the mayoral seat.

On Nov. 24, voting on the local government elections, along with 10 referendums, was scheduled to end at 4 p.m. but at some of Taipei’s 1,563 polling stations, the closing time was extended due to the long lines that were still in evidence at the scheduled cut-off time.

According to Ting, there was also campaigning going on outside the polling stations in the later hours of election day while the results were being released.

At some polling stations, people could be heard shouting, “Dump Yao, save Ko,” Ting said, referring to the third candidate, Yao Wen-chih (姚文智) of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).

Under such circumstances, Ting said, tactical voting could have occurred as DPP supporters may have changed their minds about voting for Yao, who was trailing far behind, and instead decided to cast their ballots for Ko to prevent Ting from winning.

There was some indication of tactical voting after the total count in the Taipei race reached 190,000 votes, as Yao’s tally increased only slightly after that, Ting argued.

The ballot count in the five-way Taipei mayoral race went on into the next day and was not completed until 2:36 a.m., which Ting said was a poor reflection on both the Central Election Commission and the Taipei City Election Commission.

In that count, Ko received 580,820 votes (41.05 percent), Ting 577,566 (40.82 percent) and Yao 244,641 (17.29 percent).

The other two independent candidates Wu E-yang (吳蕚洋) and Lee Si-Kuen (李錫錕) each gained less than 0.5 percent of the votes.

During the current recount process, each ballot will be displayed by a polling clerk for the judge and legal representatives to look at, according to Chief Judge Huang Ping-chin (黃柄縉) of the Taipei District Court administrative division.

The ballot boxes were sealed on Nov. 29 after the recount was requested and the ballots will not be touched by any member of the recount teams except the polling clerks, who will be wearing gloves, he said.

Under the law, the recount must be completed within 20 days of the date on which the boxes were resealed, Huang said.