The election that has seen President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo retain the presidency is likely to go down as the slowest, most controversial and inept in the country's history. While Mrs Arroyo may hope that time will make the flawed election fade like a bad memory, it is more likely to remain a running sore which will limit her ability to govern effectively during her coming six-year term. There is plenty of ammunition for the opposition who say Mrs Arroyo has not legitimately won the election and who are likely to mount a series of challenges through the courts and Congress. The Arroyo camp had declared victory the day after elections, when private pollster Social Weather Stations (SWS) released exit polls indicating she beat her biggest rival - Fernando Poe Jnr - in metropolitan Manila by 31 per cent to 23 per cent. Nationwide the poll showed she won by 41 per cent to 32 per cent. But the final vote count now shows SWS erred in Metro Manila. Poe swept the capital with 36 per cent over Mrs Arroyo's 26.6 per cent - a fact that SWS has declined to explain, and undermining its early prediction of an Arroyo win. An indication of the winner was supposed to be ascertained by an unofficial count of votes by the independent body Namfrel (the National Citizens Movement for Free Elections). But Namfrel stopped counting on June 5 when Mrs Arroyo's lead over Poe was only 515,598 votes. Namfrel refused to count about seven million votes more in its possession because its secretary-general, Guillermo Luz, said they only tabulated votes coming from 'clean reports'. He concluded that the 'elections from our viewpoint are credible and reflect the vote of the people.' The Poe camp has accused Namfrel of helping cover up fraud committed through massive disenfranchisement of his supporters and vote-shaving that in some towns yielded zero votes for all candidates save Mrs Arroyo. Metro Manila is likely to be a test case. Only 3.8 million of 5.9 million registered voters cast their ballots - a 64.6 per cent voter turnout, lower than the 74 per cent national average. Namfrel, however, blames this on massive bungling by the Commission on Elections, and not fraud. Even poll commissioner Resurreccion Borra concedes the recent polls had set a record in sloppiness, but in turn apportioned blame on a Supreme Court ruling that forced them to revert from automated counting to manual counting. The mistake-prone manual count undermined the integrity of final election results. And as the country lurches from one blunder to next, the opposition is exploring this to the hilt to taint any Arroyo victory and possibly install Poe through extra-legal means.