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Arroyo Won't Run in 2004

Philippine President Gloria Arroyo surprised her country on Monday by saying she is not going to run for a new term in 2004. She says she made the decision to avoid a prolonged period of political infighting.

Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo made the announcement in a speech commemorating a national hero. She called her decision not to run for reelection "a sacrifice". "If I were to run it would require a major political effort on my part," she said. "In the divisive national events of the last two or three years my political efforts can only be result in the never-ending divisiveness."

The next election is in May of 2004.

Ms. Arroyo said that if she ran for president, it would worsen the economic difficulties in the Philippines. Observers say some of her allies pressured the president to make the announcement, and note that she has lost much of her political support. Recent polls show that Ms. Arroyo's popularity has dwindled, and that she is trailing behind three other potential candidates for the next election.

Opposition politicians, however, speculate the president could change her mind if the economy improves.

Ms. Arroyo says the government is so divided that some of her programs begun in the past year are in danger of being derailed. The president has attempted to tackle the problems of tax evasion and corruption and to crack down on organizations linked to the al-Qaida terror network in the southern Philippines. She says that instead of campaigning, she will concentrate on implementing her programs.

Ms. Arroyo was elected vice president in 1998 under former President Joseph Estrada. Ms. Arroyo took over as the president in 2001 when Mr. Estrada was ousted in a popular revolt backed by the military and the Roman Catholic Church. Mr. Estrada has been charged with economic plunder and is in jail awaiting trial.