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UPDATE 2-Philippine elections hit by malfunctions, violence

By Manny Mogato and Manolo Serapio Jr. MANILA, May 10 (Reuters) - Problems with some ballot machines kept Filipino voters waiting for hours on Monday, including the leading presidential candidate, but authorities said that would not disrupt the election of a successor to Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. Violence in some remote and rural areas, including bomb blasts and shootings, and allegations of vote-buying also marred the ballot for nearly 18,000 local and national posts. Presidential frontrunner Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino was forced to wait about four hours to vote on a hot and humid day and long queues formed at other ballot stations across the poor Southeast Asian nation as some voting machines malfunctioned. "It's super disorganised. There's no order. Been queuing for more than an hour and the line is at least 50 metres long. It's the worst election by far," said 42-year-old Armand Juele, who had expected voting to take a few minutes as in previous ballots. More than 50 million people are eligible to vote in the elections, and an 85 percent turnout was expected on a day when temperatures in Manila were forecast to reach 36 degrees Celsius (97 Fahrenheit). The use of a new and untested automated voting system is a major risk for the election. Concerns about the system intensified following the recall of more than 76,000 memory chips after a fault was discovered last week. Either a failure of the machines or a failure of people to understand the new voting system could lead to a disputed result, which could in turn lead to political instability and unrest. "There have been several reports of PCOS (voting) machines malfunctioning and others have been destroyed in what is presumably normal Philippine Election Day intimidation and harassment," consultancy Pacific Strategies & Assessments said. "There are lingering questions over whether the machinery and technical support is adequate to support the daylong grind in the high temperatures of the season and the added heat of crowded voting in non air-conditioned rooms." Fighting corruption and reducing poverty have been the key themes of the campaigns, but candidates have not been specific on details, including how to tackle the large budget deficit. Among the challenges for the new president will be trying to reinvigorate an economy that has fallen behind its Southeast Asian peers, both in terms of growth potential and as an investment destination. "I prayed for a peaceful election, so our country can move forward.

People are sick and tired of the cheating and fraud in the past elections," 57-year-old voter Danilo Arriola told Reuters Television. VIOLENCE At least seven people have been killed in three incidents since Saturday on Mindanao, where 57 people died last November in an election-related massacre, and there were a number of incidents of shootings and explosions on Monday. Television footage showed people fleeing a school polling station in Marawi City in southern Mindanao after two explosions, which police said were probably from a grenade launcher or rifle grenade. There were no casualties in the incident. Opinion polls showed Aquino as a clear leader in the race for the presidency ahead of former president Joseph Estrada and Senator Manny Villar, with Gilberto Teodoro, candidate of the outgoing administration, a distant fourth. "I voted for Noynoy. Let's see if he can really fulfil his promise to bring change to the Philippines, we are relying on his promises," said Liza Pascual, a 45-year-old clerk who queued through the morning to vote in Manila. The election commission Comelec said election failure was set to be declared in four municipalities in Lanao del Sur on the southern island of Mindanao due to violence. Commissioner Gregorio Larrazabal said of the 300 machines reported to have problems, 289 had been replaced. "It's not as widespread as it's made to appear by some people and what's important is that these are being replaced," he said. Comelec also said if a machine malfunctioned people could still complete their voting paper, which would be stored and scanned later by staff at election booths. "You should not stop voting," said Cesar Flores, president for Asia of Smartmatic, which supplied the machines. Due to the voting delays, Comelec extended voting by an hour to 7 p.m. (Additional reporting by Rosemarie Francisco; Writing by John Mair; Editing by Jeremy Laurence) ((john.mair@thomsonreuters.com; +632 841-8914; Reuters Messaging: john.mair.reuters.com@reuters.net)) Keywords: PHILIPPINES ELECTION/ (If you have a query or comment on this story, send an email to news.feedback.asia@thomsonreuters.com) COPYRIGHT Copyright Thomson Reuters 2010. All rights reserved.

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