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Monday, 26 November, 2001, 09:16 GMT
Voters shun Philippines poll
Troops in Zamboanga city
About 10,000 extra troops are in the region
Polls in the southern Philippines to elect a new governor for a Muslim self-rule area have closed.

The election came one week after the outgoing governor, Nur Misuari, led an amed uprising against government forces.

The turnout has been low, with less than 20% casting ballots in some areas despite a plea from President Gloria Arroyo to the 1.3 million voters in the region to support the election.

There have been few reports of violence from Muslim rebels.

President Gloria Arroyo
President Arroyo urged voters to turnout
Our correspondent in Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) said thousands of extra troops have been deployed, creating an almost suffocating military presence.

He said Christians by and large have not bothered to vote - most are opposed to even being part of the ARMM.

But, he says, the government will be particularly disappointed by the small number of Muslims who cast their votes.

Some may have been too frightened to come to the polling stations. Others have lost faith in the autonomous region which has done little to improve their lives since its creation five years ago.


The Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao was created in 1996 after Nur Misuari signed a peace accord which ended 25 years of an armed campaign for an independent Muslim state.

Nur Misuari
Nur Misuari broke a five-year peace agreement with the government
Mr Misuari was elected as governor but he has been widely criticised for corruption and incompetence.

Earlier this year his own organisation, the Moro National Liberation Front, voted to replace him as chairman.

Last week, Mr Misuari, broke his five-year-old peace agreement with the government and launched an attack on an army base on the island of Jolo in which more than 100 people were killed.

He has since been arrested after fleeing to neighbouring Malaysia, easing the tension in the ARMM a little.

Both Jolo and Basilan have been plagued by the militant Abu Sayyaf group, which is still holding two Americans hostage on Basilan.

President Arroyo has made ending the conflict in the southern Philippines a priority of her administration.

Her hope is that a better governor may persuade more rebels to lay down their arms.

The BBC's Jonathan Head
"Democracy in the middle of a war zone"
See also:

24 Nov 01 | Asia-Pacific
Philippine rebel leader arrested
22 Nov 01 | Asia-Pacific
Army hunts for Philippines governor
21 Nov 01 | Asia-Pacific
In pictures: Philippines uprising
21 Nov 01 | Asia-Pacific
'Over 100' dead in Philippines uprising
20 Nov 01 | Asia-Pacific
Arroyo suspends renegade governor
19 Nov 01 | Asia-Pacific
Philippines peace deal broken
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