The son of late Philippines dictator Ferdinand Marcos on Tuesday headed for a historic landslide victory in the country’s presidential election, after Filipinos brushed aside warnings about weakening their already fragile democracy.
Nearly 40 years after his namesake father was deposed by a popular revolt and his family chased into exile, Ferdinand Marcos Jr had garnered more than double the number of votes of his nearest rival, according to an unofficial tally of results.
With more than 84 percent of precincts reporting, Marcos had received over 27 million votes to liberal candidate Leni Robredo’s 12.9 million.
If sustained, the tally — published by local media from Commission on Elections figures — would make Marcos the first Philippine president since his father’s ouster to be elected with an absolute majority.
It would also signal an astonishing turnaround for the fortunes of the Marcos clan, who have come from being pariahs to in reach of the presidential palace in a generation.
Marcos’ campaign was marked by a relentless online whitewashing of his father’s brutal and corrupt regime, as well as an embrace of current authoritarian president Rodrigo Duterte, who retains widespread popular support.
Before polling day, rights activists, Catholic leaders and political analysts had warned Marcos Jr could rule with an even heavier fist if he wins by a large margin.
Delivering a late-night address from his campaign headquarters in Manila, a tired but beaming Marcos thanked volunteers for months of “sacrifices and work”.
But he stopped short of claiming victory, warning that “the count is not yet done”.
“Let’s wait until it’s very clear, until the count reaches a hundred percent then we can celebrate.”
Cleve Arguelles, a political science lecturer at Manila’s De La Salle University said it was already clear that “this will be a historic election” for the Philippines.
The results are a crushing blow for supporters of Robredo, the incumbent vice president whose campaign morphed into a movement to defend democracy and brought almost a million people onto the streets in one recent rally.
Analyst Mark Thompson said there now needed to be soul searching among an opposition that needs to broaden its message beyond “good governance”.
“They need to make clear that they’re going to improve the lives of the average Filipino,” said Thompson, who is director of the Southeast Asia Research Centre at the City University of Hong Kong.
Marcos was able to tap into widespread anger at a string of post-dictatorship governments, which many Filipinos believe had failed to materially improve their lives.
Crucially, he also secured the support of several of the country’s powerful political dynasties, who through networks of patronage can be called on to deliver blocs of votes.
Those alliances were set for a further victory with his running mate Sara Duterte garnering an even bigger lead over rivals in her vice presidential race.
In the Philippines, the winner only has to get more votes than anyone else.