Muslim minority in the southern Philippines vote in plebiscite on autonomy

Residents of Muslim dominated regions of Philippines’ Mindanao island voted on Monday in a referendum to decide whether they want autonomy to the country.

The plebiscite with 2.83 million registered voters is part of a slew of measures to promote peace between the government in Manila and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), in the predominantly Catholic nation.

The MILF expects the voters to give a resounding “Yes” if there is no vote manipulation.

However, militants linked to the Islamic State are opposed to the voting and the peace deal, under which MILF abandoned their goal of an independent state in exchange for broad autonomy in a new region, Bangsamoro (Nation of Moros).

It also agreed to demobilise the 30,000 to 40,000 Moro fighters.

Following siege of-of the city of Marawi for some five months in 2017 by IS linked militants, the whole island has been kept under martial law.

The Bangsamoro plan has the firm backing of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte.

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