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Marcos dynasty back in power: What’s next for the Philippines? | Elections

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The Marcos dynasty is returning to the pinnacle of power in the Philippines. Almost exactly 50 years after Ferdinand Marcos declared martial law and established a dictatorship in the country, his namesake son is set to take over the Malacañang Presidential Palace.

Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr secured more than 30 million votes in the May 9 presidential election, nearly double that of his nearest rival, current Vice President Leni Robredo.

The last time a Filipino leader enjoyed such a commanding electoral mandate was in 1969, when Marcos Sr became the first post-war president to win a  re-election in the Philippines.

Naturally, critics fear that Bongbong will replicate his father’s dictatorial ambitions and, similar to outgoing President Rodrigo Duterte, ditch Western democratic partners in favour of closer ties with China.

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Upon closer examination, however, it becomes clear that Marcos Jr will have to share power with other major political dynasties.

Furthermore, unlike the Dutertes, the Marcoses neither have lifelong resentment towards the West, nor an inexplicable infatuation with authoritarian superpowers such as China and Russia. Thus, the incoming Filipino president will likely pursue far more balanced relations with superpowers.

The counterrevolution

The impending return of the Marcoses to the Malacañang is a result of the family’s decades-long efforts for a “counterrevolution”, namely overturning the 1986 “People Power” revolt that toppled their dynastic dictatorship. Indeed, Marcoses have been working against reformist forces and slowly inching towards regaining power in the Philippines since their return from exile in 1991.

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As early as the 1992 elections, just years after the “People Power” revolt that topped their dictatorship, the Marcoses could have been restored to power had former First Lady Imelda Marcos and former Marcos crony Eduardo Cojuangco Jr joined forces.

The eventual victor, Fidel V Ramos, himself a distant cousin of the Marcoses, won with only 23 percent of the votes, far smaller than the combined votes (28 percent) garnered by the remnants of the former regime. Six years later, Joseph Estrada, a trusted ally, won the presidency in an electoral landslide, largely thanks to the backing of the Marcoses and their legions of loyalists.

Over the succeeding decades, the Marcoses continued to win various top positions in the government. Marcos Jr, for instance, has served as governor, congressman and senator throughout his political career. He lost the 2016 vice-presidential election by a razor-thin margin.

As I have previously written in these pages, since the early 1990s the Marcoses have been knocking at the doors of Malacañang by skilfully exploiting the shortcomings of the reformist administrations that came after them.

Instead of empowering citizens, post-Marcos administrations allowed the country’s key political offices and economic sectors to be dominated by a narrow and rapacious elite. More than 80 percent of elected legislative offices in the Philippines have been occupied by members and loyal supporters of prominent political dynasties, including the Marcoses, in the post-Marcosian era. In 2011, the 40 richest Filipino families on the Forbes wealth list accounted for 76 percent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) growth.

These failings by the reformists, coupled with the shortcomings of the judicial system that allowed Marcoses to contest top elected offices despite facing multiple graft and corruption charges and convictions, paved the way for the dynasty to create the necessary conditions for their return to power.

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