Baguio (Philippines), Dec. 30 (Reuters): Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo said today she would not contest the next election, a surprise announcement that changes the political landscape before a poll which must be held by 2004.
Arroyo, whose popularity has slumped since she was swept to power in 2001, said she wanted to spare the country fresh political turmoil and focus on reviving the economy.
Some rivals praised the decision as statesmanlike, an economist said it would help defuse tensions that could have spooked the economy but one political commentator said her hand had been forced by those who put her in power in the first place.
“I have to make this sacrifice,” Arroyo, a 55-year-old economist, told officials in the mountain resort city of Baguio, 200 km north of Manila.
Arroyo, who as vice-president took office in January 2001 after demonstrations toppled Estrada, is grappling with a raging national budget deficit, poor tax collection and perceptions of increased lawlessness.