The Philippines goes to the polls on May 9 to choose a new president, in what analysts say will be the most significant election in the Southeast Asian nation’s recent history.
Outgoing President Rodrigo Duterte leaves office with a reputation for brutality – his signature “drug war” has left thousands dead and is being investigated by the International Criminal Court (ICC) – economic incompetence, and cracking down on the media and his critics.
Duterte has also been criticised for his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed at least 60,439 people in the archipelago.
The first is frontrunner Ferdinand Marcos Jr, popularly known as “Bongbong” and the 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.
The second is Leni Robredo, the current vice president and head of the opposition, who has promised more accountable and transparent government and to reinvigorate the country’s democracy.
“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. Duterte represents dynasty, autocracy and impunity. Robredo stands for the opposite of that: integrity, accountability and democracy.”
What happens on election day?
Some 67.5 million Filipinos aged 18 and over are eligible to cast their vote, along with about 1.7 million from the vast Filipino diaspora who have registered overseas.
Polling stations will open at 6am (22:00 GMT) and close at 7pm (11:00 GMT). The hours have been extended because of the coronavirus pandemic and the need to avoid queues and crowds.
Once the polls close, counting gets under way immediately, and the candidate with the most votes wins. There is no second round so the name of the new president could be known within a few hours. The inauguration takes place in June.
As well as the presidential race, Filipinos are choosing a new vice president – the position is elected separately to the president – members of congress, governors and thousands of local politicians including mayors and councillors.
Politics can be a dangerous business in the Philippines and there is the risk of violence during both campaigning and the election itself.
In one of the most horrific incidents, dozens of people were killed and buried by the roadside in 2009 by a rival political clan in what became known as the Maguindanao massacre.
Who is in the running for president?
Opinion polls suggest Marcos Jr remains in the lead although Robredo appears to be closing the gap.
The 64-year-old dictator’s son attended the private Worth School in England and studied at Oxford University – Marcos Jr’s official biography says he “graduated” but the university says he emerged with a “special diploma” in social studies.
He entered politics in the family stronghold of Ilocos Norte in 1980, and was governor of the province when his father was forced out of power and democracy restored.
In 1992, he was elected to congress – again for Ilocos Norte. Three years later, he was found guilty of tax evasion, a conviction that has dogged him ever since but does not seem to have hindered his political career.
Marcos Jr was elected a senator in 2010, and ran unsuccessfully for the vice presidency six years later when he was pipped to the post by a resurgent Robredo.
On the campaign trail, Marcos Jr has talked of “unity” but has provided little detail on his policies and has avoided media interviews and debates.
His running mate is Sara Duterte-Carpio, Duterte’s daughter, who took over as mayor of Davao City from her father and is leading the field for vice president.
Philippine presidential candidate Ferdinand ‘Bongbong’ Marcos Jr acknowledges the crowd during an election rally. He has sought to portray his father’s dictatorship as some kind of golden age for the Philippines despite the killings and economic mismanagement [Eloisa Lopez/Reuters]
Robredo is the current vice president and a human rights lawyer who got into politics in 2013 after her husband – a government minister – was killed in a plane crash.
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.
Thousands have turned out for her rallies, some of then standing for hours in their hot sun waiting to hear the presidential hopeful speak. Robredo, whose running mate is Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan, is running on a platform of good governance, democracy and an end to corruption.
Other candidates include champion boxer Manny Pacquiao, Manila mayor Francisco “Isko Moreno” Domagoso, and a former police chief Panfilo Lacson.
Why would a Marcos victory be controversial?
Ferdinand Marcos became president of the Philippines in 1965, winning over Filipinos with his charisma and rhetoric, and taking control of a country that appeared at the time to be one of Southeast Asia’s emerging powerhouses.
Backed by the United States, Marcos won a second term in office in 1969, but three years later he declared martial law claiming the move was necessary to “save” the nation from communists.
For the next 14 years, he ruled the country as a dictator.
More than 3,200 people were killed – their bodies often dumped by the road side as a warning to others – and even more tortured or arbitrarily jailed, according to the US academic and historian, Alfred McCoy.