TAIPEI, Taiwan – Taiwan's (search) High Court ruled against nullifying the March 20 presidential election on Thursday, rejecting opposition claims that the vote was marred by fraud and a shooting that injured President Chen Shui-bian (search) one day before his victory by a razor-thin margin.
The ruling ended seven months of hearings, ballot recounting and investigations that posed a serious challenge to one of Asia's youngest democracies. The disputed vote was only Taiwan's third direct presidential election.
Wu Ching-yuan, the High Court's presiding judge, said, "We announce hereby that the petition to nullify the election result is rejected."
Hundreds of protesters rallied outside the court, honking horns and climbing on barriers wrapped in barbed wire. A long line of police with riot shields tried to prevent a repeat of the violent street protests that lasted for days after the election.
The losing candidate, Lien Chan (search) of the Nationalist Party, will appeal to the Supreme Court, said his lawyer, Jaclyn Tsai, who alleged the court was biased toward the president.
But the president's attorney, Wellington Koo, urged the opposition to accept the decision, saying the judiciary is independent.
Lien, who lost by a 0.2 percent margin, insisted the election should be held again because of alleged ballot tampering. He also claimed that thousands of police and soldiers could not vote because the president put them on special alert after the shooting.
Chen's government denied any effort to rig the vote and the opposition failed to provide compelling evidence.
Lien also suggested the president might have staged the shooting that grazed Chen's stomach while he was parading in an open Jeep on the election's eve. Lien has said he won't accept the election results until the shooting is thoroughly investigated.
Police have not arrested any suspects directly linked to the attack.