Polls close in the Philippines

Polls have closed in the Philippines after a presidential election marred by violence and allegations of fraud.

More than 90 people died during the campaign - 16 of them just before voting began on Monday, police said.

Opinion polls suggest President Gloria Arroyo is likely to defeat her main rival, Fernando Poe Junior, a film star with no political experience.

But the outcome is far from certain, and Filipinos may have to wait a month before they know the final results.

Correspondents say all the main presidential candidates have largely ignored the main issues facing the country - including a weak economy, Islamic militancy and a Communist insurgency.

As well as the main battle for president, thousands of local posts were also being contested.

In all, the election will decide the president, vice president, 12 senators, 200 members of the House of Representatives and 17,000 posts such as governor and town mayors.

About 230,000 police and troops were deployed at polling stations throughout the country in an effort to contain the violence.

Police said two campaign aides were shot in Manila on Monday morning, while seven armed men were killed in a northern province on Sunday.

A further six people were killed on Sunday in ambushes on the southern island of Mindanao, where Muslim separatists are fighting against the Manila government.

"I am praying for peace and unity in our country," Mrs Arroyo said after casting her vote.

There are also suggestions of widespread corruption, especially in local polls.

Presidential race

In the race for the top job, Mrs Arroyo is the favourite to win a fresh six-year term.

She wants the chance to win a real mandate three years after she inherited the presidency from Joseph Estrada, who was ousted as leader by street protests in 2001.

The latest opinion polls give her a 6-7% lead over Fernando Poe Junior, a friend of Mr Estrada.

The BBC's correspondent in Manila, Sarah Toms, says the president's selling point is her experience, although many analysts see her three years in office as unremarkable.

In contrast, action movie hero Mr Poe - a political novice - has staged his campaign around his fame and personality.

He was mobbed by screaming fans when he turned up at a Manila polling station to cast his ballot.

But Mr Poe let an early advantage slip away by relying on image rather than substance, our correspondent says.

The other three runners - Raul Roco, a former education secretary, former police chief Panfilo Lacson, and Eduardo Villanueva, an evangelist - are expected to split about a third of the votes.

10/05/2004

Bron : BBC World

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