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Philippines Vote Proceeds Despite Glitches

Voters check their papers at a polling station in the Philippine election
Voters check their papers at a polling station in the Philippine election

Despite long delays caused by new automated voting machines, millions of Filipinos have headed to the polls to choose a new president.

Most voters set out early Monday to avoid the midday sun and temperatures topping 38 degrees to vote in an election that marks the end of Gloria Arroyo's presidency.

The polling stations were loud and boisterous. Scuffles broke out in some, while in the country's troubled south at least two deaths were reported and eight people injured in a grenade attack.

Several other deaths linked to the elections have been reported since Saturday. However, for the most part, though, the voting Monday was peaceful.

Liberal Party candidate Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino is favored to become the next president. His standing is in part a legacy of his mother, former President Cory Aquino, who remained a highly respected figure in Philippine life until her death last August.

Another former president, Joseph Estrada, has enjoyed a late swing in his favor and could provide an upset.

Ousted by a coup in 2001, jailed for corruption and eventually pardoned, Estrada still holds a significant support base, particularly in the countryside and the poorer suburbs of Manila.

Also favored is businessman Manny Villar whose campaign has focused on his rags to riches life.

Catherine Maramara is an official election watcher at the Epifino Delos Santos Elementary School in suburban Manila. It is one of the busiest polling stations in the capital, with between 20,000 and 30,000 people expected to vote there.

"It's very exhausting and people are all sweaty, and I don't know," Maramara said. "We are hopeful for a peaceful election and we are hoping for a new government and a good government."

President Gloria Arroyo will leave office on June 30 with the lowest approval ratings registered for a president since ratings were introduced in 1986. Her administration was tainted with corruption allegations, including vote rigging in the 2004 election.

Mrs. Arroyo is limited to one term in office, and she is seeking a seat in Congress in this poll.

There is hope that new automated voting machines will make cheating almost impossible in this election.

But there are concerns the vote could collapse because of software problems.

More than 82,000 machines have been deployed. Officials said the problems associated with the machines are minimal, although some polling stations will remain open for an extra hour to make up for delays.

Jun Cabreza is an area chairman of the Barangay Party. His son is contesting one of the 17,000 local community positions that are also being contested at this election.

"It's a good election, it's a good election. Some voters can not vote because their names are not on the list but it is minimal, minimal yeah," says Cabreza.

The glitches are expected to delay counting and the final result by days or even weeks. But election observers expect a strong trend could emerge by Tuesday to indicate who will be the next president.