(CNN) — Ferdinand Marcos Jr., the son and namesake of the late Philippine dictator, is poised to win the country’s presidential election overwhelmingly, according to preliminary and unofficial results. The result could return the Marcos dynasty to the Malacañang Palace 36 years after the family fled a popular uprising.
With more than 95% of the votes counted, Marcos Jr has some 30 million votes, more than double that of his closest rival, outgoing Vice President Leni Robredo, who has some 14 million votes, according to a partial and unofficial count of the Election Commission (Comelec), reported CNN Philippines, a CNN affiliate. The official results, however, could take weeks to confirm.
Known as “Bongbong” in the Philippines, Marcos Jr. is the son of Ferdinand Marcos, whose 21-year rule was marred by human rights abuses and widespread corruption. Analysts say the rise of Marcos Jr. is the culmination of a decades-long attempt to revamp the Marcos family’s name and image, most recently through social media.
Marcos Jr., who is a former senator, thanked his supporters for believing in him in a speech Monday night.
“Although the countdown is not over yet, I can’t wait to thank all of you … those who helped, those who joined our fight, those who sacrificed,” he said.
Marcos Jr.’s running mate for vice president is Sara Duterte Carpio, the daughter of outgoing populist leader Rodrigo Duterte. Many of her supporters have voted for a continuation of Duterte’s policies, including his controversial “war on drugs.”
Partial and unofficial results show that Duterte Carpio is also leading the race for the vice presidency. The vice president is elected separately from the president in the Philippines.
On Tuesday, protesters, mostly students and members of progressive groups, gathered in the capital, Manila, in front of the Philippine electoral commission, carrying banners and chanting slogans against Marcos and what they said were electoral irregularities.
The return to power of the Marcos family in the Philippines
Marcos Jr. ran on a “unity” platform and promised more jobs, lower prices and more investment in agriculture and infrastructure. Political analysts say Marcos Jr. appeals to Filipinos tired of political bickering and successive administrations’ promises of progress and economic reform that many feel have not benefited ordinary people.
Opinion polls had him ahead by more than 30 percentage points in the run-up to Monday’s vote.
Robredo, who throughout the campaign positioned herself as a promoter of good governance, transparency and human rights, told supporters on Monday: “We’re not done yet, we’re just beginning.”
“We started something that has never been witnessed before in the entire history of the country: a campaign led by people,” he said, according to CNN Philippines.
His grassroots campaign was fueled by an army of citizen volunteers who went door-to-door canvassing for votes, and his rallies consistently drew hundreds of thousands of people.
Marcos Jr. tied his campaign to his father’s legacy, with his slogan “get up again” tapping into the nostalgia of some who saw the period under Marcos as a golden age for the country.
Supporters of the Marcos family say that the period was one of progress and prosperity, characterized by the construction of important infrastructure such as hospitals, roads and bridges. Critics say it was wishful thinking and that those projects were fueled by widespread corruption, foreign loans and mounting debt.
Tens of thousands of people were jailed, tortured or killed during the martial law period from 1972 to 1981, according to human rights groups. The Philippine Presidential Commission on Good Governance (PCGG), tasked with recovering ill-gotten wealth from the family and their associates, estimates that around $10 billion was stolen from the Filipino people. Dozens of cases are still active.
The Marcos family has repeatedly denied abuses under martial law and the use of state funds for their personal use. Activists say the Marcoses were never fully held accountable and victims of martial law are still fighting for justice.
Marcos Jr. was 29 years old when his family was exiled to Hawaii following a People Power revolution that toppled his father’s regime in 1986. Marcos died in exile three years later, but his family returned in 1991 and they became politicians. wealthy and influential, with successive family members representing their dynastic stronghold of Ilocos Norte.
What’s coming for the Philippines
Journalist Maria Ressa, winner of the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize and president and CEO of local news outlet Rappler, told CNN that Marcos’ victory shows “not only to Filipinos but to the world, the impact of disinformation in a democracy.”
“He will determine the future of this country but also its past.”
Marcos Jr. appears poised to replace President Duterte, known internationally for cracking down on civil society and the media and a bloody drug war that police say has claimed the lives of more than 6,000 people. Despite his record on human rights and the Covid-19 pandemic, which has worsened the country’s hunger crisis, Duterte remains hugely popular domestically.
The choice also has ramifications beyond the borders of the country. With China and the US increasingly treating the Indo-Pacific as a stage for their global showdown, the Philippines is likely to come under growing economic and geopolitical pressureparticularly as its territorial claims in the South China Sea overlap with Beijing’s.
Analysts say there is an opportunity to restore the Philippines’ relations with the two major powers, and the result of the vote in the country could change the balance of power in Asia.
— CNN’s Yasmin Coles and Simone McCarthy contributed to this story.