Philippines began voting on Monday morning (local time) to elect its new president, with the son of former dictator Ferdinand Marcos as the favorite to win the race, according to polls.
The polls opened at 06:00 local time (22:00 GMT on Sunday), AFP journalists confirmed. Voting will last until 7:00 p.m. local time.
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Nearly 40 years after his father was deposed and sent into exile, Ferdinand Marcos Jr. seems poised to restore family power.
Ten candidates seek to succeed the current president Rodrigo Dutertebut only Marcos and his rival Leni Robredo, current vice president, seem to have a chance of winning.
People wearing masks lined up before dawn to cast their ballots in front of schools and other sites converted into polling stations across the archipelago.
A high turnout is expected among the more than 65 million Filipinos eligible to vote.
“Exit. The long lines are magnificent. Filipinos wanted to be heard,” said George Garcia, of the Election Commission, in a message to reporters.
Marcos voted with his younger sister, Irene, at the Mariano Marcos school in the northern city of Batac, where his family comes from.
More than 60,000 security agents were mobilized to protect the electoral process. No incidents have been reported.
After a rough campaign, opinion polls point to a clear victory for Marcos, with a double-digit lead over Robredo in recent polls.
Under Philippine electoral law, the winner is the one with the most votes, without the need for a minimum percentage of support.
Since Robredo announced his intention to run for the presidency in October, groups of volunteers have sprung up in his support across the country, seeking to convince voters to back him.
Marcos’ campaign has gone to great lengths to cover up the brutal and corrupt record of his father’s regime and to capitalize on voter disenchantment with recent governments.
After six years of authoritarian rule by Duterte, human rights advocates, the Catholic Church and political analysts have expressed fear that Marcos will be driven to rule even more harshly if he wins by a wide margin.
“We believe that the human rights crisis is going to get worse in the country,” said Cristina Palabay, secretary general of the human rights alliance Karapatan.
Robredo, a 57-year-old lawyer and economist, promised to clean up Philippine politics, a democracy that has a tradition of feudalism and corruption.
For their part, Marcos and his vice-presidential candidate, Sara Duterte, both sons of authoritarian leaders, have insisted that they are the most qualified to unify the country.
Hundreds of thousands of red-clad supporters poured into Marcos and Duterte’s rally in Manila on Saturday at the close of their campaign.
An assistant, Josephine Llorca, considered it better to bet on another Marcos because the governments after the 1986 revolution that deposed the then dictator did not improve the lives of the population.
“We tried it and they were even worse than Marcos’ time,” Llorca declared.
Political analyst Richard Heydarian warned that a landslide victory for Marcos could allow him to make constitutional changes that strengthen his power and weaken democracy.
“(Rodrigo) Duterte never had the discipline or the means to take his authoritarian agenda to its logical extreme,” Heydarian noted.
Other candidates running for president in Philippines they include former boxer Manny Pacquiao and actor Francisco Domagoso.