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Filipinos go to the polls

ELECTIONS in the Philippines tend to be, as many political and academic analysts from that nation would be the first to concede, enthusiastic events. They are not, and never have been, sedate, white-tie affairs. Nor have they often been held without charges of irregularities. So, it is not surprising that there are allegations of vote fraud in the crucial legislative elections just held. The contests will decide the makeup of the new Congress that will make laws under a new Constitution backed by President Corazon Aquino, who swept Ferdinand Marcos out of power in a military-civilian uprising early last year.

Final results for the Philippines - an archipelago - are not expected for two weeks. Early returns show supporters of Mrs. Aquino's centrist coalition out front in both the Senate and House.

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As of this writing, with conclusive results still to be tabulated, two points seem to warrant special attention:

The turnout, perhaps up to 90 percent of the nation's 26 million voters, is a tribute to the Philippine people and their insistence on a restoration of democratic government following the inertia and regimentation of the Marcos years. Granted, this particular election has been marred by some unfortunate acts of violence and reported voter irregularities, although foreign observers said they saw no evidence of widespread fraud. But the more important point is that the election was held at all - the first genuinely free national congressional elections since at least 1972.

Aquino continues to need the support of Western leaders. It is no coincidence that the sharpest criticisms about this election came from her main opponents - backers of Marcos and former Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile on the right, and communist dissidents on the left. Mrs. Aquino remains committed to a democratic Philippines. Given the unique economic and social problems facing her nation, that is no modest goal in itself.

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