TAIPEI -- Taiwan's High Court ordered all ballot boxes sealed yesterday as thousands of protesters demanded a recount in President Chen Shui-bian's reelection, saying the balloting was marred by voting irregularities and an apparent assassination attempt that wounded the incumbent.
The court said it was sealing the boxes to preserve evidence, but it did not order a recount of Saturday's vote as requested by challenger Lien Chan. The opposition also said it would seek to nullify Chen's narrow victory, arguing he unfairly received sympathy votes because of the election-eve shooting, which remained unexplained.
Chen, who campaigned on a China-bashing platform, and Vice President Annette Lu were shot and slightly wounded while riding in an open jeep Friday in Chen's hometown, Tainan.
Nobody has been arrested, and police have not identified any suspects. A $718,750 reward has been offered for information leading to an arrest.
Chen won Saturday's election with 50.1 percent of the vote, compared with 49.9 percent for Lien -- a margin of only 30,000 votes.
But Taiwan's first island-wide referendum, also held Saturday and championed by Chen, failed because many voters decided to boycott it.
The ballot question was fiercely opposed by China, which saw it as a rehearsal for a vote on Taiwan independence. China and Taiwan split amid civil war in 1949, and China wants the island to rejoin the mainland.
Lien has pushed for a more conciliatory approach toward China. His party said Chen did not have legal authority to call the referendum and successfully rallied Taiwanese to skip the vote.
About 10,000 demonstrators gathered in Taipei clamoring for an immediate recount, police said.
Speaking to the protesters, Lien said he was demanding that the government form a special task force with medical and criminal specialists to investigate the attack on Chen and its influence on the election.