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Philippine voters back new Muslim autonomous region in Mindanao

Election commission in Manila expected to ratify result on Friday

A woman casts her vote in a plebiscite on Jan. 21 on the creation of a Muslim autonomous region in the southern Philippines, at a polling station in Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao Province.   © Reuters

COTABATO CITY, Philippines -- Voters in the Philippines' conflict-ridden southern islands have overwhelmingly backed the creation of a new Muslim region with greater autonomy from the national government.

In a referendum on Monday, 98% of voters in two provinces that together account for 40% of the electorate backed the establishment of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. A partial count released by the election commission shows that two of the three remaining provinces have voted for inclusion in the new region.

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