Marcos Jr eyes landslide as Philippines votes for new president

By AFP   May 8, 2022 | 05:11 pm PT
Marcos Jr eyes landslide as Philippines votes for new president
Ten candidates are vying to succeed President Rodrigo Duterte in the elections seen by many as a make-or-break moment for Philippine democracy. Photo by AFP
Millions of Filipinos thronged primary schools and other polling stations Monday to elect a new president, with the son of former ruler Ferdinand Marcos the favorite to win the high-stakes election.

Nearly 40 years after the patriarch was deposed by a popular revolt and the family chased into exile, Ferdinand Marcos Junior looks set to complete their remarkable comeback from pariahs to the peak of political power.

Ten candidates are vying to succeed President Rodrigo Duterte in elections seen by many as a make-or-break moment for the Philippines' fragile democracy.

But only Marcos Jr and his rival Leni Robredo, the incumbent vice president, have a credible chance of winning.

People wearing masks began forming long queues before dawn to cast their votes when polling stations opened at 6:00 a.m. (2200 GMT Sunday) across the archipelago.

At Mariano Marcos Memorial Elementary School in the northern city of Batac, the ancestral home of the Marcoses, voters used hand fans to cool their faces in the tropical heat as they patiently waited their turn.

After bomb sniffer dogs swept the polling station, Marcos Jr arrived with his younger sister Irene to vote.

They were followed a short time later by their mother, Imelda, who arrived in a white van wearing a long red top with matching trousers and slip-on flats.

The flamboyant 92-year-old matriarch, who amassed a staggering collection of art, jewelery and shoes during her husband's rule, needed to be assisted as she walked.

Casting her ballot for Robredo at a school in Magarao municipality, in the central province of Camarines Sur, Corazon Bagay said she "deserves" to win.

"She has no whiff of corruption allegations," said the 52-year-old homemaker. "She's not a thief. Leni is honest."

Turnout is expected to be high among the more than 65 million Filipinos eligible to vote.

"Blockbuster. The long lines are magnificent. Filipinos wanted to be heard and heard loudly," said George Garcia of the Commission on Elections in a message to reporters.

At the end of a bitter campaign, polls showed Marcos Jr heading for a landslide. He had a double-digit lead over Robredo in the latest surveys and she will need a low turnout or a late surge of support to score an upset.

In the Philippines, the winner only has to get more votes than anyone else.

Since Robredo announced her bid for the top job in October, volunteer groups have mushroomed across the country seeking to convince voters to back what they see as a battle for the country's soul.

But relentless whitewashing of the elder Marcos's brutal and corrupt regime, support of rival elite families and public disenchantment with post-Marcos governments have fueled the scion's popularity.

After six years of Duterte's authoritarian rule, rights activists, Catholic church leaders and political analysts fear Marcos Jr will be emboldened to lead with an even heavier fist if he wins by a large margin.

"We think it will worsen the human rights crisis in the country," said Cristina Palabay, secretary-general of human rights alliance Karapatan.

While Marcos Jr had a 75 percent chance of winning, the outcome was not guaranteed, according to Eurasia Group analyst Peter Mumford, who said potential complacency among his supporters could work in Robredo's favour at the ballot box.

go to top