MANILA (Reuters) - The Philippines’ elections will go ahead as scheduled next Monday, authorities said, despite last minute problems with electronic balloting machines that raised doubts about the nationwide vote.
The use of an automated system has long raised fears of fraud and a failed vote, and Tuesday’s recall of some 76,000 faulty memory cards to be used in the machines had prompted the government to propose delaying the poll by two weeks.
“Now is the time to work together as a people and as a nation,” Commission on Elections (Comelec) commissioner Gregorio Larrazabal said in a televised address Wednesday.
“Those who are liable will be held liable, those who are negligent will be held accountable, but for now, let us work together to ensure that the elections will work on May 10, 2010.”
Larrazabal said the new cards would be sent, tested and sealed by the eve of the poll, when more than 50 million Filipinos are eligible to vote for president and nearly 18,000 national and local positions.
Combined with the hit global markets took from concerns that Greece’s problems could spread, speculation of a delayed vote helped knocked the peso down 0.9 percent to a low of 45.04 per dollar, its weakest in a month.
The stock market fell 3.5 percent, its biggest daily fall since June last year, to its lowest close in two weeks, ahead of the decision to proceed with the vote.
“With only five days to go before the exercise, this indeed does not serve to lift confidence,” said Justino Calaycay of Accord Capital Equities.
Benito Lim, political science professor at the Ateneo de Manila University, said some of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s allies might be thinking of keeping her in power longer for their own personal interests.
“I am not surprised by the government’s move to propose a two-week delay in the elections, some people probably have a different and dangerous agenda,” Lim told Reuters.
Arroyo is ineligible to stand for the presidency again, but is running for a seat in the lower house of Congress.
Leading presidential candidate Senator Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino has said he will investigate allegations of corruption, election fraud and rights abuses against Arroyo and her administration.
Aquino has opened a double-digit lead over Senator Manuel “Manny” Villar and former president Joseph Estrada to be the clear favourite.
Support for Aquino, only son of Cory Aquino, the country’s revered democracy icon, was further boosted when a large Christian group, Iglesia ni Cristo (Church of Christ), endorsed him Wednesday, which should deliver him about 3-4 million votes.
The current administration’s presidential candidate, Gilberto “Gibo” Teodoro is running a distant fourth in opinion polls.
Aquino and Villar’s respective parties, the Liberal Party and Nacionalista Party, have said the proposed delay is unconstitutional.
Editing by John Mair and Jeremy Laurence