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Glitches may delay Philippine polls

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The Philippine elections scheduled for next week may need to be delayed because of technical problems with vote counting machines, AFP quoted a spokesman for President Gloria Arroyo as saying Wednesday.

"I would imagine that the success of the automation... is more important than the timing," Gary Olivar told AFP.

"Nobody benefits from a foul up... if technical issues require more time and require us to delay, that is not an unreasonable judgment to make."

Olivar's comments came a day after the Commission on Elections said faulty software in memory cards for more than 76,000 vote counting machines would have to be replaced.

The memory card problems, which resulted in the machines failing to read the names of candidates off ballot papers, were only discovered during final-phase testing on Monday, one week before the May 10 elections.

However the commission has insisted the memory cards will be replaced in time and the election will be able to go ahead.

Olivar pointed out any decision to delay elections rested with the commission and not the president.

But be nevertheless emphasised that Arroyo was alarmed about the developments.

"Obviously, we are concerned. The success of the automated election was one of her beat-the-odds promises at the beginning of her term," Olivar said.

Fifty million voters are scheduled to go to the polls on Monday to choose a replacement for Arroyo and thousands of lower-level officials.

Votes in previous Philippine elections were counted by hand, a process that was extremely vulnerable to cheating and meant results sometimes took weeks to be announced.

The government decided to introduce a computerised system in an effort to shorten the vote-tallying process to a few days and to minimise the potential for cheating.


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