US, EU hail democratic milestone of Philippine polls


Posted at May 11 2010 05:50 PM | Updated as of May 12 2010 01:50 AM

MANILA, Philippines - The United States and the European Union on Tuesday hailed the overall conduct of the Philippines' first automated election and said it looked forward to working with the new leader of a key Asian ally.

The US Embassy in Manila said it sent 120 observers across the country "to witness Philippine democracy in action."

"While there are always lessons to be learned, our overwhelming impression is that the Philippines has much to be proud of today. Philippine citizens served their nation by volunteering at the polls, exercising their right to vote, and taking every step necessary to ensure all ballots were counted," the embassy said.

It added: "We look forward to a smooth transition and, after June 30, to working with the new Philippine government to deepen the friendship and partnership between our two nations."

For his part, EU Ambassador to the Philippines Alistair MacDonald said he personally witnessed how smooth and generally trouble-free the election was on Monday.

"The elections of May 10, the high voter turnout and the admirable patience shown by the voters were an impressive proof of the resolve of the Philippine people to have their voice heard in both national and local politics," he said in a statement.

He added: "I had the privilege of observing the electoral process in both Cavite and Batangas yesterday and was impressed by the manner in which this first nation-wide automated election was conducted. Voters seemed generally comfortable with this new system, turn-out was high, and the automation process seemed to work well, with relatively few technical hitches."

The Ambassador noted that many of his colleagues from EU Embassies had also observed the elections, at various locations in Luzon, the Visayas and Mindanao, and all had appreciated the smooth conduct of the voting process overall. "Despite the intense heat, the long lines and the inevitable unfamiliarity of a new process," he said, "our observations suggested that this process was carried out smoothly, and the results transmitted rapidly, in the great majority of cases."

He expressed concern, however, about reports of electoral violence both on and before voting day.  He said these detracted from an otherwise ground-breaking event in Philippine electoral history, and expressed the hope that the authorities would follow up quickly and effectively to bring the perpetrators to justice.

With just five million votes to be tallied, officials said Benigno Aquino III, son of late Filipino democracy icons Ninoy and Cory Aquino, has a 4.5 million-vote lead over deposed former president Joseph Estrada. Other candidates have conceded.

Election day was marred by scattered violence that left 10 people dead, but the government pulled off the automated vote with minimal disruption. With Agence France-Presse