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Unofficial Polling Shows Arroyo Leading in Philippine Presidential Election - 2004-05-11


In the Philippines, vote counting from Monday's elections is moving predictably slowly, with only a fraction of the votes counted so far. However, unofficial polling shows President Gloria Arroyo leading her main rival, movie star Fernando Poe Junior. Correspondent Scott Bobb reports from Manila, where the two major presidential candidates commented on the balloting.

President Gloria Arroyo Tuesday called the elections generally peaceful, orderly and clean. She praised security forces who prevented widespread violence, despite scattered incidents that left a score of people dead on election day.

The president called for calm while the results are tabulated. "Everyone must conduct themselves with prudence, sobriety and respect for the democratic process," she said.

Pollsters said preliminary results showed the president ahead of her main rival, Fernando Poe Jr. Mr. Poe took issue with the pollsters, saying he was in the lead. He urged his supporters to remain vigilant as the counting proceeds and not to be cowed by government threats.

A specialist on Philippine politics, Asia Foundation representative Steven Rood, says the elections went about as expected.

"They [the elections] were somewhat more troublesome than had been the recent case - more deaths in poll-related violence, more voters having trouble finding their names on the voters list - but there was no widespread system failure," he said.

Mr. Rood went on to say a major complaint was that voter registration lists were never completely updated and were only published in the final days of the campaign. As a result, some people could not find their names on the list and were not able to vote.

Mr. Rood notes there are fears of violence as the results are announced, but says they may be unwarranted.

"Part of the problem for anybody trying to cause trouble is that in the meantime, while the slow count is going on, most people go back to their normal lives and stop focusing on politics, so it would be hard to catch their attention for any systematic violence," he said.

The ballots from around the Philippines' 7,100 islands are being tabulated by hand, and official results are not expected for weeks. However, independent groups have promised unofficial results within days.

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