Arroyo leading Philippines race

A day after polls closed in the Philippines, early indicators put President Gloria Arroyo ahead of her main rival, Fernando Poe Junior.

An exit poll by Social Weather Stations (SWS) showed Mrs Arroyo leading Mr Poe, a film star without political experience, by 40% to 32%.

But an unofficial count of almost 1.6m votes by local TV network ABS-CBN gave Mrs Arroyo only a 2% lead.

The official ballot result will not be known for another month.

Monday's poll was carried out amid widespread violence and allegations of electoral fraud.

More than 16 people were killed just before polls opened - bringing the total number of deaths during the campaign to more than 90.

Mr Poe's supporters are already disputing the fairness of the election.

They have accused Mrs Arroyo's camp of numerous irregularities, including vote-buying and harassment of voters, according to the Associated Press news agency.

According to reports in the local press, some voters were handed envelopes of cash or free lunches if they voted for certain candidates.

Other voters complained that the indelible ink aimed at preventing double voting washed off with suspicious ease.

Gloria Arroyo appealed on Tuesday for the honest counting of votes, but brushed off the accusations against her supporters, insisting the election was "generally peaceful, orderly and clean".

"The important thing now is we must leave behind the rancour that unfortunately characterised the campaign," she said.

PRESIDENTIAL HOPEFULS

Presidential race

In all, the result of Monday's 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.

If Mrs Arroyo wins the race for the top job, she will be given her first real mandate.

Although she has been in power for three years, she inherited the presidency from Joseph Estrada, who was ousted as leader by street protests in 2001.

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 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 trailing well behind the two front-runners, according to early exit polls.

11/05/2004

Bron : BBC World

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