Defence chief tells of election plot

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 22 March, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 22 March, 2006, 12:00am

Taiwanese Defence Minister Admiral Lee Jye yesterday said two retired generals tried to persuade him to fake sickness in a bid to show that the military opposed the result of the island's controversial 2004 presidential election.

'But I turned them down,' the minister said during a legislative session where he was questioned by opposition lawmakers over a claim by President Chen Shui-bian that he had faced a 'soft coup d'etat', plotted by the opposition camp.

The bitterly fought polls in 2004 saw Mr Chen win re-election by a wafer-thin margin, a result opposition challenger Lien Chan, then chairman of the Kuomintang, claimed was rigged.

Admiral Lee, then chief of the general staff, said two retired military officers visited him soon after the election and asked him to fake illness, but he rejected their proposal because the military should stay neutral. Admiral Lee later became defence minister after Mr Chen was sworn in for his second term as president.

Thousands of opposition supporters rallied outside the Presidential Office after the election, claiming Mr Chen staged a shooting incident to win sympathy votes.

A mysterious election-eve shooting of the president and his running mate, Vice-President Annette Lu Hsiu-lien, during their campaigning was believed to have turned the tide after Mr Lien was reported to have moved into the pre-poll lead. Mr Chen and Ms Lu were slightly injured.

Mindful of the opposition charges, Mr Chen later said he had evidence that opposition parties had attempted to persuade military leaders to call in sick to cripple the island's defences and undermine the election result.