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Imelda Marcos withdraws from Philippine presidential race

Marcos sobs as she announces her withdrawal Wednesday from the election
icon 310K/30 sec. AIFF or WAV sound
April 29, 1998
Web posted at: 12:08 p.m. EDT (1608 GMT)

MANILA, Philippines (CNN) -- Facing prison and far behind in the polls, former first lady Imelda Marcos withdrew her long- shot candidacy Wednesday in the Philippines' presidential race. The move may allow her to earn a presidential pardon to avoid a prison term for graft.

Dressed in black, near tears and drawing open sobbing from many among a throng of 100 loyal supporters, the wife of late dictator Ferdinand Marcos announced she was pulling out to keep next month's vote from becoming violent.

"To save the Filipino people from the ultimate injustice of a possible bloody election, I, Imelda Romualdez Marcos, now withdraw from the May 11, 1998, presidential race," she said in a statement. She didn't explain how her withdrawal would keep the peace.

Marcos made no reference to any deal with her rivals when she announced her withdrawal just 13 days before the election. She has been convicted of graft and sentenced up to 12 years in prison but is free on bond pending an appeal.

She said she would announce within the week which of the 10 remaining presidential candidates she would support.

By law, President Fidel Ramos cannot seek another term   

Though she had been given no chance of winning, Marcos still commands an estimated 3 percent of the national vote, and her support could spell victory for a candidate in what is seen as a close race.

In her speech, Marcos blamed "relentless injustice," including descriptions of her as a nuisance candidate, for her withdrawal.

Marcos made the announcement outside the government anti-graft court where her son, Ferdinand Jr, was testifying about an alleged secret deal between the government and the Marcoses to share the estimated $540 million kept by the late president in Swiss banks.

The deal calls for the state to drop all pending charges against the family, but officials deny any agreement was reached.

Manila insists the Swiss deposits are part of the former president's ill-gotten wealth during his 20-year rule.

The Marcos family fled to Hawaii after a 1986 "people's power" uprising, internationally vilified for bringing the economy to near ruin.

The former president died in 1989. His widow returned home in 1991 and ran for the presidency the following year, a race won by current President Fidel Ramos. Ramos is limited by the constitution to a single six-year term.

Reuters contributed to this report.


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