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Page last updated at 12:34 GMT, Monday, 10 May 2010 13:34 UK

Millions queue to vote in Philippines elections

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There have been problems with the automated voting system

Voting in national and local elections in the Philippines has ended and early results are expected within hours.

At least six people were killed as voters cast ballots for a new president and vice-president, amid reports of continuing violence in the south.

Voting was extended by one hour to accommodate long queues of voters.

The queues have been linked to problems with new automated vote-counting machines, some of which had failed to operate properly in pre-poll testing.

Formal results from the elections, which will also fill more than 17,000 government positions, are expected within two days.

In the presidential race, Benigno Aquino, the son of the popular former president, Cory Aquino, has been leading the polls but former president Joseph Estrada is also in the running.

Outgoing President Gloria Arroyo, whose term expires in June, is running for a seat in parliament.

Determined to vote

Long lines formed at the Nemesio Yabut elementary school in the capital, Manila, with hundreds of people waiting in the heat for a chance to vote, says the BBC's Philippines correspondent Kate McGeown.

AT THE SCENE
Kate McGeown
Kate McGeown, BBC News, Manila

Nemesio Yabut elementary school is more used to queues of children than queues of adults, but today they're here in their hundreds waiting for a chance to vote. It's one of Manila's biggest polling stations - about 20,000 people are expected to pass through here today.

It's hot and sticky here, and some people have already been waiting for hours. But everyone still seems to be in high spirits, and some people have even started selling food and drink here to the waiting crowds. People I've spoken to say they are excited about today, but also worried about the possibility of violence.

The school's principal, Marilyn Macalma, said she expected 22,500 people to turn up to vote there.

People take elections seriously in the Philippines and an estimated 85% of those eligible are expected to vote, says our correspondent.

But as had been predicted, glitches were reported with the country's new automated voting system.

Even the election front-runner, Mr Aquino, had trouble voting at his home province of Tarlac because the ballot-counting machine had broken down.

"Hopefully, this is just an isolated incident. We are waiting for more reports... (but) if people can't vote because the machines don't accept their ballots, then certainly that is a problem," said Mr Aquino.

Voter Armand Juele, 42, said he had queued for more than an hour to cast his ballot and the line was still 50m (yards) long.

"It's super-disorganised," he told Reuters news agency. "There's no order. It's the worst election by far."

Another unnamed voter said he had no intention of leaving despite the long queues.

"We have to push through with the voting," he said. "Otherwise it would be a waste of our rights."

Throughout the campaign the issue of the automated voting machines has dominated headlines.

Election commissioner Gregorio Larrazabal appealed to voters in Manila to wait patiently and said back-up machines were available if ones in use malfunctioned.

"What's important is that you will be processed," he said. "You will be able to vote. Your vote will be counted."

Poll violence

The presidential contenders are vying to replace Mrs Arroyo, who came to power in 2001 and is stepping down as she reaches her constitutional two-term limit.

PHILIPPINES ELECTION
Voters queue in Quezon City, Philippines (10 May 2010)
Voting for president, vice-president and more than 17,000 officials
Some 50m registered voters
85% turnout expected
Presidential front-runners include Joseph Estrada, Benigno Aquino and Manny Villay
More than 90 people killed in pre-election violence
Problems reported with new automated voting machines

Her premiership has been marred by allegations of corruption and she has fended off several impeachment motions put forward by Congress.

She is now running for a post in Congress herself and her opponents have said they will file corruption charges against her once she no longer has presidential immunity.

Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino has been the pre-election day favourite to replace Mrs Arroyo.

Correspondents say the 50-year-old's political pedigree - as the son of the beloved former president who died in August last year - has been hugely important in his campaign, but he is also considered an honest, if inexperienced, candidate.

Joseph "Erap" Estrada is another front-runner but correspondents say his past could play against him.

He was deposed and jailed by Mrs Arroyo in 2001 on allegations of corruption, although she later pardoned him.

Property tycoon Manny Villar is also expected to do well. His campaign on focused on what he portrays as his rise from poverty to riches but has been tainted by corruption allegations.

Security has been high around polling stations in an attempt to stave of the violence that has accompanied the country's past elections.

But there were sporadic reports of violence as polling took place:

  • In southern Maguindanao province, two civilians were killed as private armies of rival vice mayoral candidates clashed in North Kabuntalan town, Lt Col Raymundo Ferrer told reporters
  • Three people were shot dead and 10 others wounded in a pre-dawn clash clash between police and supporters of a mayoral candidate in the southern province of Zamboanga Sibugay.
  • A cousin of the vice governor in North Cotabato province was shot dead while riding on a motorbike, local police said.

The latest deaths bring the toll during the four months leading up to the elections to 35 killed.

Those deaths are in addition to the 57 people killed in Maguindanao province in November, when a group tried to register a candidate for the elections in an area held by a rival clan.

Twelve members of the clan, the Amapatuans, have been charged with involvement in the mass killing, but 10 of them are running for posts in these polls.



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RELATED INTERNET LINKS
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FROM OTHER NEWS SITES
Yahoo! UK and Ireland Philippines' Aquino prepares for office vowing change - 30 mins ago
Time In the Philippines, a Landslide Victory for the Aquino Dynasty - 6 hrs ago
NEWS.com.au Philippine's Aquino set for landslide win - 10 hrs ago
Asia Times Online Aquino on brink of landslide victory - 19 hrs ago
Daily Express Aquino has commanding lead in poll - 22 hrs ago


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