May 17, 2004 in City

Filipino leader widens lead

Associated Press

MANILA, Philippines — President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo widened her lead Sunday over opposition front-runner Fernando Poe Jr. in an independent count of votes from last week’s national elections, but Poe’s party claimed to be gathering evidence of widespread cheating.

With ballots from nearly 25 percent of electorates tallied, Arroyo had 3.5 million votes and Poe about 2.6 million, according to the National Citizen’s Movement for Free Elections, an officially sanctioned election watchdog.

The group is carrying out its own count of the votes because the official tally is being conducted by hand and will not be complete for weeks.

The respected survey group Social Weather Stations has predicted an Arroyo victory based on exit polls.

Poe’s supporters allege widespread cheating in the May 10 elections. Poe has said he believes he won and his party has threatened huge street protests if he is robbed of victory.

Jejomar Binay, Poe’s spokesman, said party members have gathered evidence of election fraud.

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