End of the presidential campaign in the Philippines, the great favorite of Marcos Jr

The son and namesake of former Filipino dictator Ferdinand Marcos, given the clear winner of the presidential elections from the polls, concluded his election campaign on Saturday with a gigantic rally on the outskirts of Manila.

A poll win on Monday would crown decades of efforts to rehabilitate the legacy of his father, dictator Marcos, who was deposed in 1986 and died in exile in the United States.

The prospect of seeing Ferdinand Marcos Junior arrive at the presidential palace, however, worries human rights activists, religious dignitaries and political analysts, who fear an “unconstrained” government.

Ten candidates are in the running to succeed President Rodrigo Duterte in a single round in which a relative majority is sufficient to be elected.

Tens of thousands of red-clad Marcos supporters braved the scorching sun and wind on Saturday to gather in a dusty wasteland topped by a luxury casino, a symbolic image of this country’s huge wealth gaps that many are leaving for. working abroad.

At the foot of a giant screen where the candidate appeared all smiles in a deluge of loud Filipino pop, reggae and hip hop music, the crowd waved flags in the national colors.

“We will win as long as you remain vigilant on Monday so there are no new tragedies,” said Marcos Jr, 64, alluding to the victory he believes was stolen from the 2016 presidency.

Among her supporters, Mary Ann Oladive, 37, a call center worker, hopes Junior will unite the country and provide jobs. “We trust him, we hope that after the elections they will give us a better future in the Philippines,” she explained.

For his return, the Marcos clan has fed on popular anger over corruption and persistent poverty under various governments since the dictatorship.

According to polls, Marcos Jr could win the presidential elections with an absolute majority, which would be the first time since his father’s departure.

Observers fear that such an outcome would weaken the balance of power, foster corruption, and lead to another attempt to revise the 1987 Constitution, including the end of the term limit for presidents.

“If he achieves a truly landslide victory, it could give him that kind of confidence and momentum to change the political system in the Philippines in a more radical way,” said Richard Heydarian, professor of political science at De la Salle University in Manila.

According to the latest Pulse Asia Research poll, Marcos Jr would win with 56% of the vote against 33% of his closest rival, Leni Robredo, who beat him in 2016 for the position of vice president.

Late in the campaign, Ms. Robredo, 57, who has hammered that “the country’s future” is at stake, still hopes to create a surprise in view of her recent surge in opinion polls.

– Rehabilitation –

His last meeting took place in a carnival atmosphere, his supporters gathered by the tens of thousands in the Manila business district, dressed in pink. “Victory awaits us,” he told his supporters of him.

“I think these elections are very important, the next six years of our lives will depend on that,” Charmaigne Ang, 18, who will be voting for the first time and does not believe in polls, told AFP.

Still upset by the defeat in 2016, Marcos Jr ran a very structured campaign.

Avoiding televised debates with rivals and shying away from interviews other than those conducted by complacent celebrities, he preferred YouTube videos that try to portray him and his wealthy family as ordinary Filipinos.

The rewriting of family history has also gone through a massive disinformation campaign on social networks aimed at young voters who have not lived through the paternal period, marked by corruption and violence.

Mr. Marcos Jr’s popularity has been further strengthened thanks to the alliance formed with the daughter of the incumbent president, Sara Duterte, who is running for vice presidency, and the support of several rival political dynasties.

A few days before the elections, rights defenders and several Catholic priests spoke out to prevent the return of the Marcos family to the Malacanang Palace.

“It will be another six years of hell,” warned political activist and satirist Mae Paner, 58, who took part in the popular uprising that ended the dictatorship and campaigned for Ms. Robredo.

Hundreds of Catholic prelates publicly supported Mrs Robredo and her running mate Francis Pangilinan, saying it was a “battle for the soul” of the country.

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