Marcos Jr poised for historic win at end of Philippines presidential campaign

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The son of late Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos wrapped up his election campaign on Saturday with a raucous rally of hundreds of thousands of supporters as polls show him heading for a landslide victory.

Victory in Monday’s election would cap a decades-long effort to rehabilitate Marcos’ legacy after the patriarch was impeached and the disgraced clan driven into American exile. But the prospect of Ferdinand Marcos Jr returning to the presidential palace has alarmed rights activists, religious leaders and political analysts who fear he cannot rule “without coercion”.

The Marcos’ remarkable return from pariahs to the pinnacle of political power was fueled by public anger at the corruption and poverty that persisted under post-dictatorship governments. Hundreds of thousands of red-clad Marcos supporters gathered on a dusty wasteland dominated by a gleaming luxury casino on Saturday – a stark reminder of the country’s vast income gap.

Sporting national flags, they gathered in front of a stage featuring a huge screen of the candidate smiling as Filipino reggae, hip-hop and pop played at deafening levels. “We will win as long as you stay awake on Monday so there is no more tragedy,” Marcos told the crowd, referring to his claims he was cheated in the vice-run. 2016 presidency.

Mary Ann Oladive, a 37-year-old call center worker, said she hoped Marcos Jr would bring unity to the country. “We hope to have more opportunities and jobs. We trust him, we hope that after the elections they will give us a better future in the Philippines,” she said.

‘Without restraint’

Ten candidates are vying to succeed President Rodrigo Duterte in historic elections seen by many as a watershed moment for Philippine democracy. Polls indicate Marcos Jr will win more than half of the vote, making him the first presidential candidate to win an outright majority since his father was ousted in 1986.

Analysts warn such an outcome would lead to weaker democratic checks and balances, more corruption and another attempt to overhaul the 1987 constitution – which could include scrapping the one-term limit for presidents. . Previous administrations, including Duterte’s, tried to change the constitution, but they didn’t have enough support in Congress to push through changes. The latest poll by Pulse Asia Research showed Marcos Jr 56%, 33 percentage points ahead of his closest rival Leni Robredo, who narrowly beat him in the 2016 vice-presidential race.

Such a winning margin would give Marcos Jr the power to “govern as Duterte wanted”, a longtime observer of Philippine politics told AFP. “It’s unconstrained,” he said.

Robredo’s recent poll has raised hopes among progressive supporters that their volunteer-led campaign could still cause an upset. There was a carnival atmosphere in the capital’s financial district on Saturday as hundreds of thousands of Robredo fans wearing his pink campaign color and waving flags and balloons filled the avenues, dancing to resounding live Pinoy pop on the speakers.

In a rousing speech, Robredo told his supporters there was “always hope” and said “victory awaits us”. Charmaigne Ang, 18, who voted for the first time, said the election was “very important”. “Our next six years of life will depend on it,” Ang, 18, told AFP. “Polls are not a basis for knowing who will win.”

But pollster Ana Maria Tabunda of Pulse Asia Research gave Robredo little hope. “Our margin of error is only plus or minus two percentage points – given the large discrepancy, it won’t affect the results,” Tabunda told AFP.

Bitter campaign

Allegations of dirty tricks have marred the final week of a bitter presidential campaign, as Marcos Jr warned against vote rigging while Robredo accused him of being a “liar”. Marcos Jr ran a tightly controlled campaign, skipping televised debates with rivals and largely avoiding media interviews to avoid his own pre-Election Day targets.

A massive and well-funded disinformation campaign on social media targeting a predominantly young electorate with no memory of his father’s violent and corrupt regime also sought to rewrite the family’s history. Marcos Jr’s popularity was further boosted by a formidable alliance with First Vice President and First Daughter Sara Duterte, and the support of several rival political dynasties.

Days before the election, rights activists and many Catholic priests made a last ditch effort to prevent Marcos Jr from returning to Malacanang Palace, where he grew up. “It will be another six years of hell,” warned political satirist and activist Mae Paner, 58, who was part of a popular uprising that ended the elder Marcos’ rule and campaigned for Robredo.

Hundreds of priests backed Robredo and his running mate Francis Pangilinan, telling their flocks the election was a “battle for the soul” of the nation. But after enduring six years of attacks from the elder Duterte, Robredo has seen his popularity hammered by a relentless and vicious online smear campaign.

Political analyst Richard Heydarian said Robredo’s late decision to enter the race cost valuable time, while ‘unnecessary infighting’ between rival candidates benefited Marcos Jr. of money to the prince of Philippine politics, Bongbong Marcos”. he said, using the nickname Marcos Jr.

(AFP)

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