Chaos warning as Arroyo and Poe stay in dead heat

MANILA: Philippine President Gloria Arroyo remained in a dead heat with movie star rival Fernando Poe in the latest opinion poll yesterday, prompting warnings of “chaos” if no candidate wins a decisive mandate in May elections. 

The two main contenders were separated by just a wafer-thin margin in the latest nationwide survey barely a month before the May 10 vote – with Arroyo at 31.4% and Poe on 32.0% – fuelling fears of uncertainty. 

“I'm really afraid of a Taiwan or a Florida scenario,” Jose Leviste of Manila-based risk consultancy Polistrat International, referring to recent controversial elections in Taiwan and the disputed 2000 US presidential polls. 

“Our people would not accept either case, and that is frightening,” he added. 

Electoral campaign strategist Tony Gatmaitan said there would be “total chaos if the result is going to be decided by 30,000 or 40,000 votes” out of an electorate of nearly 40 million. “We never had a presidential race that close.” 

Arroyo, who turned 57 on the campaign trail in her hometown of Lubao north of here yesterday, has cast next month's balloting as a referendum for her interim rule. 

Elected vice-president in 1998, she came to power without a popular mandate after a military-backed revolt ousted corruption-tainted leader Joseph Estrada. 

Arroyo has since weathered street riots and a military rebellion which have scared off investors already unsettled by the government's high debt load and shallow revenue streams. 

“We really cannot afford a close election. The winners must have a real mandate to govern later,” Leviste told a political forum that discussed the results of the latest opinion poll by the Manila-based Social Weather Stations. 

“We really need a Malaysian-type result,” he added, referring to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi's sweeping victory in the general election last month. – AFP

For Another perspective from the Philippine Daily Inquirer, a partner of Asia News Network, click here


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