Marcos Jr on the brink of historic victory as Philippine presidential campaign ends

The prospect of Ferdinand Marcos Jr returning to the presidential palace has alarmed human rights activists, church leaders and political analysts

The son of the late Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos was set to address hundreds of thousands of supporters on Saturday on the last day of the presidential election campaign, as polls showed him on his way to a landslide victory.

Monday’s election victory would end a decades-long effort to rehabilitate Marcos’ legacy after the patriarch was deposed and the disgraced clan driven into American exile.

The Marcoses’ remarkable return of pariahs to the pinnacle of political power was fueled by public anger at corruption and poverty that persisted under governments that followed the dictatorship.

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They waved national flags and gathered in front of a stage with a huge screen of the laughing candidate as Filipino reggae, hip-hop and pop played to a deafening level.

“We hope for more opportunities and jobs. We trust him, we hope they will give us a better future in the Philippines after the elections,” she said.

Ten candidates are vying for President Rodrigo Duterte’s successor in the landmark election that many see as a make-or-break moment for Philippine democracy.

Analysts warn that such a result would lead to weaker democratic checks and balances, more corruption and another attempt to revise the 1987 constitution, including removing the one-term limit for presidents.

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

“That’s without limitation,” he said.

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

Charmaigne Ang, 18, the first voter, 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 owning goals before Election Day.

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

“It will be six more years of hell,” warned political satirist and activist Mae Paner, 58, who was part of a popular uprising that ended the regime of the elder Marcos and campaigns for Robredo.

But after six years of attacking the elder Duterte, Robredo has seen her popularity rise through a relentless and vicious online smear campaign.

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

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