Marcos Jr on verge of historic win as Philippine presidential campaign ends

The prospect of Ferdinand Marcos Jr moving back into the presidential palace has alarmed rights activists, church leaders and political analysts

The son of late Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos was set to address hundreds of thousands of supporters Saturday on the final day of presidential election campaigning, as polls showed him heading towards a landslide win.

Victory in Monday’s election would cap a decades-long effort to rehabilitate the Marcos legacy after the patriarch was deposed and the disgraced clan chased into US exile.

The Marcoses’ remarkable return from pariahs to the peak of political power has been fuelled by public anger over corruption and poverty that persisted under governments that followed the dictatorship.

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Wielding national flags, they gathered before a stage featuring an enormous screen of the smiling candidate as Filipino reggae, hip-hop and pop played at deafening levels.

“We hope for greater opportunity and jobs. We trust him, we hope that after the election they will give us a better future in the Philippines,” she said.

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

Analysts warn such an outcome would lead to weaker democratic checks and balances, more corruption and a fresh attempt to overhaul the 1987 constitution — which could include scrapping the one-term limit for presidents.

The latest poll by Pulse Asia Research showed Marcos Jr on 56 percent — 33 percentage points ahead of his nearest rival Leni Robredo, who narrowly beat him in the 2016 vice-presidential race.

“That is without constraint,” he said.

There was a carnival atmosphere in the capital’s financial district on Saturday as hundreds of thousands of Robredo fans wearing her pink campaign colour and waving flags and balloons packed out avenues, dancing to live Pinoy pop blaring over loudspeakers.

First-time voter Charmaigne Ang, 18, said the election was “very important”.

But pollster Ana Maria Tabunda of Pulse Asia Research gave Robredo little hope.

– Bitter campaign –

Marcos Jr has run a tightly-controlled campaign, skipping televised debates with rivals and largely shunning media interviews to avoid own goals before election day.

Marcos Jr’s popularity has been further enhanced by a formidable alliance with vice-presidential frontrunner and first daughter Sara Duterte, and the backing of several rival political dynasties.

“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’s regime and has been campaigning for Robredo.

But after enduring six years of attacks from the elder Duterte, Robredo has seen her popularity hammered by a relentless and vicious online smear campaign.

“They are handing this on a silver platter to the princeling of Philippine politics, Bongbong Marcos,” he said, using Marcos Jr’s nickname.

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