HANOI – Great power rivalries, including US-China chest-thumping on a wide range of political, economic and security issues, look set to dominate this weekend’s Asian summits set inside the bleak, socialist-cliché trappings of Hanoi’s imposing National Convention Center. The immediate focus of the 17th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit, with regional leaders in attendance, will be Myanmar’s first elections in two decades scheduled for November 7. As ever, the military-ruled country has added an edginess to the typically anodyne proceedings, where attention to the ephemera sometimes borders on the absurd. Two days after Robert Kelley, a former International Atomic Energy Agency official, called on ASEAN to take the lead in addressing an alleged nuclear weapons program in Myanmar, one of the three official summit press statements released by ASEAN at time of writing was devoted to the issuing a commemorative stamp by host country Vietnam.
MANILA — Prison inmates in the Philippines got a taste of life outside of jail today, when in a landmark event for the Southeast Asian island nation, prisoners voted in the country’s national elections. Final results for the overall election are still forthcoming, but unofficial tallies of 57 percent of votes cast showed presidental favorite Beningo “Noynoy” Aquino well in front with 40.6 percent, ahead of former President Joseph Estrada in second place. First up to cast her ballot this morning at Makati City Jail in Manila was a 27-year-old who gave her name as Janet. Appearing non-plussed, she told GlobalPost that her voting experience “felt OK.” “I knew who I wanted to vote for, so it was no big deal,” she said.
MANILA — In a first for The Philippines – a country with intermittent electricity supply and a history of electoral fraud – a computerised system is being used instead of the manual count used in most other countries. Despite 11th-hour glitches that meant the recall and re-programming of 76000 flash cards used to scan votes, the election commission (Comelec) remains confident that “the elections will go through”, according to Comelec chair Jose Melo. It is still not clear, however, whether the equipment will be ready and distributed across the whole archipelago in time. The election commission nonetheless is resisting calls from candidates and media to conduct a manual count in parallel and as a back-up to the computerised alternative, as Filipinos prepare to vote for a successor to President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, choosing from 3 main contenders have been described as a saint, a CEO and a movie star. The ‘saint’ in question is Benigno ‘Noynoy’ Aquino, son of former President and democracy icon Cory, who died in August 2009.