Friday, 24 May, 2024

Philippines votes for new president in ‘most consequential election’

Voting is under way in Philippines to elect a new president, with the son of former dictator Ferdinand Marcos the favourite to win the high-stakes race and restore his family to the pinnacle of power.

About 65 million Filipinos are eligible to vote to decide on a successor to Duterte after his six years in power.
About 65 million Filipinos are eligible to vote to decide on a successor to Duterte after his six years in power. (Reuters)

Filipinos have begun voting for a new president with the son of an ousted dictator and a champion of reforms and human rights as top contenders in a tenuous moment in a deeply divided Asian democracy.

Monday's election pits Vice President Leni Robredo against formersenator and congressman Ferdinand Marcos Jr, the son andnamesake of a dictator whose 20-year rule ended in a publicrevolt and his family's humiliating retreat into exile.

Opinion polls put Marcos, popularly known as "Bongbong",leading his rival by over 30 percentage points, having toppedevery poll this year. That means Robredo will need a late surgeor low turnout if she is to win the presidency.

Marcos, 64, has presented no real policy platform but hispresidency is expected to provide continuity from outgoingleader Rodrigo Duterte, whose ruthless, strongman approachproved popular and helped him to consolidate power rapidly.

Robredo, 57, a former human rights lawyer and staunchliberal, has pledged to improve education and welfare, fightpoverty and improve market competition if elected.

Polls opened at 6 am (2200 GMT Sunday) and will close at 7 p.m.(1100 GMT Monday) and an unofficial vote count could give anindication of who is the winner a few hours later.

READ MORE: Battle against disinformation, historical revisionism in Philippine polls

Support for Marcos

Marcos is buoyed by a cult-like following of youngerFilipinos born after the 1986 revolution, having launched amassive social media offensive in an upbeat campaign that hascarried undertones of historical revisionism.

His supporters and social media influencers have dismissednarratives of plunder, cronyism and brutality under the martiallaw of his late father as lies peddled by opponents, presentingwhat his critics say is a different version of history.

TheMarcos camp has denied running misinformation campaigns.

Despite its fall from grace, the Marcos family returned fromexile in the 1990s and has since been a powerful force inPhilippine politics, retaining its influence with vast wealthand far-reaching connections.

The vote also presents an opportunity for Marcos to avengehis acrimonious loss to Robredo in the 2016 vice presidentialelection, a narrow defeat by just 200,000 votes that he soughtunsuccessfully to overturn.

READ MORE:Philippines 'relatively peaceful' ahead of election – police

'Most consequential elections'

About 65 million Filipinos are eligible to vote to decide ona successor to Duterte after his six years in power.

Also up for grabs are about 18,000 posts, from seats in thesenate and congress to mayors, governors and councillors.

In a commentary, author and political analyst RichardHeydarian said the stakes are higher than any other election inrecent years, with Marcos likely to overhaul the constitution toentrench his power if he wins, and Robredo in a position toprevent a "Marcosian hegemony".

"Make no mistake: This is the most consequential electionsin contemporary Philippine history," he wrote in the PhilippineDaily Inquirer.

READ MORE: Is the Philippines on the verge of another Marcos presidency?

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