Sunday, December 26, 2010

Noynoy set to take power

Benigno Noynoy Aquino attends a campaign rally April 28, 2010, in Manila, the Philippines.

Aquino Victory Looks Certain in Philippines Vote

AOL News, May 11, 2010 -- Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino, the son of the iconic figures of the Philippines' move to democracy, is set to take power after the nation's first automated national elections went off better than expected, albeit with widespread glitches.

The result isn't yet official, but in counting today, Aquino had 40 percent of the vote, with the trailing candidates at least 15 points behind. His mother, Corazon Aquino, was president from 1986 to 1992, after his father, Benigno, a senator and democratic activist, was assassinated in 1983.

Four of Aquino's rivals have conceded, with only former president Joseph Estrada, second in the polls, refusing to give up.

The election saw isolated cases of the violence that plagues Philippines elections, and snafus with automated voting machines. But the turnout was a high 75 percent, and the vote appears to have been a success.

Ahead of Monday's vote, final testing saw problems with the voting machines, and some observers feared that elections could fail or fuel fierce post-vote protests because of technical problems.

When his win is made official, as is now expected, Aquino will face the daunting task of bringing change to this perennial Asian underachiever, which is rich in natural and human resources but has lagged its regional peers due to widespread corruption and the dominance of a landed elite.

Aquino ran on an anti-corruption, anti-poverty platform and successfully sold himself as the "cleanest" candidate, while his rivals were tainted with allegations of graft. "I will not only not steal, but I'll have the corrupt arrested," he told reporters in a news conference today, according to The Associated Press.

But some wonder whether the un-charismatic Aquino, himself part of an elite family with large property holdings, will be able to deliver on his promises.

He has pledged, for example, not to raise taxes, not to distribute pork-barrel spending, and to pursue the outgoing, unpopular president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on corruption charges, according to the Financial Times.

But one political analyst says he's heading for a reality check. "He needs a little bit more of pragmatism or political reality will overwhelm him," says Ramon Casiple, head of the Institute for Political and Electoral Reforms, told the Financial Times.

At least nine were killed in election-related violence, with supporters of rival candidates involved in a shootout with police.

On election day Monday, Aquino himself experienced a five-hour delay in voting due to problems at his election station in Tarlac, his home province, according to ABS-CBN News.

His rival Estrada took exactly eight minutes to vote, out of superstition that eight is his lucky number, since he is the eighth of 10 children, according to the Manila Bulletin. Estrada, a former movie star, was ousted in 2001 amid allegations of massive graft. He was later convicted, then pardoned.

Monday's election also featured world boxing star Manny "Pacman" Pacquiao's bid for a House of Representatives seat (he was ahead in the polls as of late today), as well as the comeback of Imelda Marcos, the shoe-collecting wife of deceased autocrat Ferdinand Marcos. She won a House seat, as did outgoing president Arroyo.

Filipinos enthused about the new automated voting system in comments posted on BBC, saying it had curbed monkey business on election day.

Social media also figured prominently in the election, with one Filipino media outlet, ABS-CBN News, gushing that its Twitter page on the vote -- tagged #halalan, the Filipino word for elections -- vaulted past pop star Justin Bieber on Monday to become the third-highest "trending" topic.

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