Polls open in the Philippines as voters elect a new president

Millions of Filipinos have begun voting to choose a new president in an election pitting the son of the Philippines’ late dictator against a liberal human rights lawyer.

Polls opened across the Southeast Asian nation at 6:00am on Monday (22:00GMT on Sunday), with a record-breaking 67 million people registered to cast their ballots.

Elections Commissioner George Garcia told reporters that he expected a huge turnout.

“It’s a historic election, a very memorable one, simply because we’d be electing, at least in a pandemic situation, a new president and that’s why we’re expecting a high turnout of voters,” he said before the polls opened.

Voting will end at 7pm (11:00 GMT), with polling hours extended because of the coronavirus pandemic and the need to avoid queues and crowds. Counting of ballots will begin right away.

The winner could be known within a few hours as the candidate with the most votes wins the election. In addition to the president, many Filipinos will be voting for a range of candidates including legislators, senators, and local leaders.

Presidential aspirant Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., the son and namesake of the late dictator, casts his vote in the 2022 national elections at Mariano Marcos Memorial Elementary School, in Batac, Ilocos Norte,
Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr, right, casts his vote in the 2022 national elections 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 most significant election in recent Philippine history as the outcome could result in either democratic backsliding or in liberal reforms.

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

But opinion surveys show Marcos Jr leading 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 into exile in a popular uprising in 1986.

On the campaign trail, Marcos Jr has talked of “unity” but has provided little detail on his policies. He has hailed his late father’s “genius” leadership, and avoided media interviews and debates.

Robredo, a lawyer who heads the opposition, has promised a more transparent government and to reinvigorate the country’s democracy.

She threw her hat into the ring at a relatively late stage, and has relied on a network of pink-clad volunteers to win over voters across the archipelago.

“This election is really a good versus evil campaign,” University of the Philippines Diliman political scientist Aries Arugay told Al Jazeera. “It’s quite clear. [Marcos] represents dynasty, autocracy and impunity. Robredo stands for the opposite of that: integrity, accountability and democracy.”

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