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Philippine Supreme Court Rejects Challenge to Arroyo's Re-Election - 2004-06-22

The Philippine Supreme Court has dismissed an opposition attempt to prevent President Gloria Arroyo's re-election. The decision clears one of the final legal obstacles to the conclusion of an election marked by charges of vote fraud and ballot tampering. President Arroyo called for a period of unity and reconciliation Tuesday after the Supreme Court swept aside the opposition's legal challenges.

The president's political opponents hoped the court would nullify a congressional vote count that on Sunday declared Mrs. Arroyo the winner of the May 10 election.

Despite Tuesday's legal setback, opposition leaders say they will not back down, and refuse to concede the election to Mrs. Arroyo.

But U.S. Embassy spokesperson Karen Kelley believes the Philippine public is ready to put the divisive election behind it.

"The people want to move on and they want the government to get on with the business of governing, and they want the election to end and the governance to begin," she said. "The public is ready to move on."

Mrs. Arroyo, a U.S.-educated economist, beat her opponent, movie star Fernando Poe Jr., by more than one million votes.

With the Supreme Court having approved the vote count, congress is expected to officially declare Mrs. Arroyo president for her first full term on Thursday or Friday. She took over the post in January 2001 when she was vice president, and President Joseph Estrada was driven from office by public pressure following charges of massive corruption.

Philipe Miranda is a political scientist at the University of the Philippines in Manila. He says that politically, it will be difficult for the Mrs. Arroyo to overcome the negative publicity that surrounded this month's vote count.

"This is really one of the handicaps here, in the last three weeks you had daily television covering the proceeding and the proceedings did not incline people to believe the elections had been fair," said Mr. Miranda.

Fears of political instability are on the rise. Police diffused a bomb in Manila on Monday, the third found since the election results were announced. In the coming weeks, marches are planned to protest Mrs. Arroyo's victory, and the army is on alert against a rumored attempt at military coup.

Mrs. Arroyo is scheduled to be sworn-in on June 30.