Polls open in the Philippines as voters elect a new president | Election news

Leading candidates in Monday’s vote include Ferdinand Marcos Jr, the son and namesake of the late Philippines’ dictator, and current Vice President Leni Robredo.

Naga City, Philippines – Millions of Filipinos have started voting to elect a new president in an election that pits the son of the late Philippines’ dictator against a liberal human rights lawyer.

Polling stations opened across the Southeast Asian country on Monday at 06:00 (Sunday 22:00 GMT), with a record 67 million people expected to vote.

Election Commissioner George Garcia told reporters he expected a huge turnout.

“It’s a historic election, a very momentous one, simply because, at least in a pandemic situation, we would elect a new president and so we expect a high voter turnout,” he said before polls opened.

Voting ends at 7pm (11am GMT), with voting hours extended due to the coronavirus pandemic and the need to avoid queues and crowds.

Ballot counting starts immediately and the winner can be announced in a few hours as the candidate with the most votes wins the election.

Presidential aspirant Ferdinand "bongbong" Marcos Jr., the son and namesake of the late dictator, casts his vote in the 2022 national election at Mariano Marcos Memorial Elementary School, in Batac, Ilocos Norte,
Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr, right, casts his vote in the 2022 national election at Mariano Marcos Memorial Elementary School, in Batac, Ilocos Norte, Philippines, May 9, 2022 [Eloisa Lopez/ Reuters]

There will be no second round.

Analysts have described Monday’s vote as the main election in recent Philippine history, as the outcome could lead to democratic setbacks or liberal reforms.

The competition has evolved into a two-way race between Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr and current Vice President Leni Robredo. The pair previously faced each other in the 2016 vice presidential race, with Marcos losing to Robredo at the time.

But Marcos is leading the polls this time. He is the son and namesake of his father who ruled the Philippines as a dictator until he was forced from office and exile during a popular uprising in 1986.

Throughout the campaign, Marcos Jr has talked about “unity” but has given few details about his policies. He has praised his late father’s “genius” leadership and avoided media interviews and debates.

Robredo, a lawyer who leads the opposition, has promised a more transparent government and revived the country’s democracy.

She threw in her hat at a relatively late stage and relied on a network of volunteers dressed in pink voters across the archipelago.

“These elections are really a campaign between good and evil,” political scientist Aries Arugay of the University of the Philippines, Diliman, told Al Jazeera. β€œIt’s pretty clear. [Marcos] stands for dynasty, autocracy and impunity. Robredo stands for the opposite of that: integrity, accountability and democracy.”

Marcos’ running mate in the election is the daughter of the outgoing president, Sara Duterte-Carpio. She leads the race for the vice presidency, an election that is held separately.

In Naga City, South Luzon province, the polls opened with a prayer.

“Balting machine, please be kind to us,” an election official said as she prayed before starting the machine that will be used to take and send the ballots.

Then a bell rang to signal the opening of the polling stations and voters started pouring in.

Outside the polling station, Maria Fe Cortes, 51, waited patiently in line for her turn.

β€œI vote for change. I hope the next president will help the poor,” Cortes told Al Jazeera.

In addition to the presidential and vice presidential race, Filipinos elect members of Congress, governors, and thousands of local politicians, including mayors and councilors.

The president, vice president and senators are elected for six years and the rest for three years.

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