Aquino seen as favourite as Filipinos begin voting
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Last Updated: Monday, May 10, 2010, 11:13
  
Manila: After a decade of corruption-tainted politics, Filipinos stood in long lines on Monday to elect a new leader, and surveys indicated they're pinning their hopes on the son of democracy icons who has electrified masses with his clean image and Aquino family name.

Senator Benigno Aquino III — whose father was assassinated while opposing a dictatorship and whose late mother led the "people power" revolt that restored freedoms and swept her into power — had a large lead in the last pre-election polls.

Political violence

Violence has long been a feature of Philippine elections, and police said more than 30 people have been killed in campaign-related attacks, including three on Sunday.

Two civilians were killed today in clashes between gunmen belonging to rival candidates in the southern Philippine province where 57 people were massacred last year, the military said.

Technical issue

Aquino himself was unable to immediately cast his ballot on Monday after a vote-counting machine broke down in his precinct.

"This is a new system of voting. We have a longer ballot, so I hope all the people can vote and not be delayed and I hope there will be no long lines of people outside when the voting ends," he told reporters while waiting for the machine to be fixed.

In the past, manual counts in the world's second-biggest archipelago delayed results for weeks and were prone to fraud. Officials are now expecting early tallies just hours after polls close. About 50 million registered voters in this country of 90 million will elect politicians for posts from the presidency to municipal councils.

Still, Elections Commissioner Rene Sarmiento warned there might be "some flaws and glitches”.

A former election commission chairman, Christian Monsod, said the long lines of voters represent "a celebration of democracy”.

"I was with the Indonesian delegation yesterday and they are here to learn from us because they are also going to automate. I told them you just watch, you watch how our people in elections are going to be disciplined," he said.

Key issues

A restive and politicised military, weak central government, private armies and political dynasties have stymied democratic institutions for generations.

The next leader also will face multiple insurgencies. Muslim and communist rebels and al Qaeda-linked militants have long staged terrorist attacks and hostage raids from jungle hide-outs in the south, where US troops have been training Filipino soldiers.

The next leader also faces entrenched corruption: Outgoing President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has been accused of vote-rigging in 2004 and implicated in several scandals that led to coup attempts and moves to impeach her. Calls for her prosecution have been an important campaign issue. She denies any wrongdoing and is in running for a seat in the House of Representatives.

Accompanied by her son, Arroyo was among the first voters in her hometown in Pampanga province, north of Manila. Wearing glasses, she held the 25-inch (63-centimetre) -long ballot and picked her choices by shading ovals across the candidates' names.

Bureau Report


First Published: Monday, May 10, 2010, 11:13


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