Philippines concludes first automated election

22:01, May 10, 2010      

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Filipinos witnessed a new page in the Philippines' history following the successful completion of the country's first automated election on Monday amid technical problems and reported cases of violence nationwide.

Even before polling stations officially opened at 7 a.m., some of the 50 million registered voters have already started forming queues at the 76,000 precincts nationwide, ignoring the scorching heat caused by the El Nino dry spell.

The Commission on Election (Comelec) had hoped to entice at least 85 percent of the registered voters to participate in this year's election.

As of press time, the Comelec is already counting the ballots as the 90 million Filipinos eagerly await the results.

While things went generally well in most parts of the country, the same problems that hounded Philippines' past elections were still present on Monday. Birth pains caused by the vote-counting machines were also experienced delays, prompting the Comelec to extend voting hours by another hour to 7 p.m.

"So far, the election has been peaceful and successful. We have already expected violence to erupt in certain parts of the country especially in provinces that are traditionally torn by (these disturbances)," Earl Parreno, a political analyst at the Institute for Political and Electoral Reforms, said in an interview.

Vote buying remains to be a persistent problem despite the country's switch to optical scanning machines from the manual method meant to reduce the risk of cheating. Envelopes containing money were seen in some of the polling stations as candidates attempt to make a last-minute influence in voters' decision.

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