Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (centre left) poses for a group photo during a campaign event with grassroots supporters in Taipei on November 7. Photo: AFP / Chris Stowers
Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (centre left) poses for a group photo during a campaign event with grassroots supporters in Taipei on November 7. Photo: AFP / Chris Stowers

A vote-by-vote recount of more than 1.2 million ballots cast during  the Taipei mayoral election at the end of last month continues, even while Kuomintang candidate Ting Shou-chung remains steadfast in his claims that the race was rigged.

Ting was nosed out by his arch rival, incumbent Taipei mayor Ko Wen-je, by a mere 3,254 votes: at the last count, Ko won with 577,566 votes versus 580,820 for Ting, after prolonged counting of votes by returning officers lasted well into the wee hours of the next day following the November 24 election.

This made the winning margin less than 0.3%.

The re-elected Ko told reporters on Tuesday that he never worried about the recount, stressing that Ting’s aides kept close tabs on vote counting on the election day.

However Ting complained that counting started well before the end of voting at some polling stations in the city, with preliminary results being leaked to the media. Ting argued that having real-time updates of turnout and voting figures flooding the media could have affected voter sentiment and thus influenced decisions of voters yet to cast their ballots. 

In order to apply for a recount with the Taipei District Court, Ting’s team paid a deposit of NT$3 per vote, or about NT$4.28 million (US$139,178).

All of the 1,085 ballot boxes had been securely sealed and kept by the Taipei City Election Commission, under the scrutiny of lawyers representing both candidates.

A local court said the recount would be presided over by a judge and carried out by 50 groups made up of two clerks.

Due to the neck-and-neck nature of the race, Ting’s team was “cautiously optimistic” about the outcome of the recount, according to the Central News Agency. Theoretically, the result can be overturned only if three votes per box are found to have been miscounted.

Local media quoted a source as saying that there were 60 votes missing from a box that ought to contain 3,000 votes.

Ko Wen-je with an election certificate from the Central Election Committee. He says he does not expect any change to the Nov. 24 result despite the ongoing recount. Photo: Handout

Ko received his official certificate of election from Taiwan’s Central Election Commission on Tuesday.

Observers believe Ko is unlikely to be unseated as the recount could still be a non-event, even though Ting may drag out the process by launching lengthy legal disputes.

Ko, whose popularity ratings remained stable during his past four-year tenure, may use his voter base to garner support outside Taiwan for his rumored bid for the island’s top job in the 2020 presidential election.

Ko is known for having formed amicable ties with the mainland due to his pragmatic approach to cross-strait issues.

Former Taiwanese Presidents Li Teng-hui, Chen Shui-bian and Ma Ying-jeou all served as mayors of Taipei.

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