Accessibility links

Arroyo Calls For Unity as Election Victory is Sealed - 2004-06-24

After six weeks of slow vote counting and political wrangling, Philippine President Gloria Arroyo has been officially proclaimed winner in last month's bitterly contested election.

At the end of a special congressional session that stretched from Wednesday to Thursday morning, the Senate president and House speaker jointly announced what the whole nation had long been waiting for.

"We hereby proclaim Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and Noli L. de Castro as the duly elected president and vice president of the Republic of the Philippines."

The proclamation puts an end to six weeks of political bickering that has divided the nation of about 80 million, mostly poor, people.

Ms. Arroyo defeated her closest rival, actor Fernando Poe Junior, by only a million votes.

Opposition groups challenged her election in the Supreme Court but their petition was rejected by the high court. They now vow to pursue protests alleging Arroyo supporters manipulated the ballots.

In a brief news conference Thursday, the president appealed for reconciliation. "To my detractors, I appeal for unity. To my supporters, I appeal for an open mind," she said. "This is a time for forgiveness and letting go of the past."

Police have been on alert for possible protests and violence. This week, three bombs were found in the capital, Manila.

Ms. Arroyo, daughter of a former president, was first elected a senator in 1992 and was elected vice president six years later. She took over the presidency in 2001 when then-president Joseph Estrada was ousted by street protests stemming from corruption allegations against him.

In her new six-year term, the 57-year old U.S.-trained economist will have to address several economic and security problems - including widespread poverty and long-running communist and Muslim insurgencies.

Ms. Arroyo campaigned on a number of pro-poor policies - such as job creation, power rate cuts and other social benefits. Her inauguration is scheduled on June 30.