Voting for a new Philippine president began on Monday with a brash challenger to the political establishment the favorite to win after campaigning on pledges to crush crime and corruption. Many voters in Manila had to line up in blazing sunshine for more than an hour to cast their votes, and there were several reports of electronic voting machine hitches, which could dash the election commission’s hope to declare a victor in 24 hours. The election campaign exposed widespread disgust with the Southeast Asian country’s ruling elite for failing to tackle poverty and inequality despite years of robust economic growth. Tapping into that sentiment, Rodrigo Duterte, mayor of the southern city of Davao, emerged as the front runner by brazenly defying political tradition, much as Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has done in the United States.
“I am voting early so the mayor will be represented,” said housewife Lea Alimasag at a polling station in Davao, where Duterte’s man-of-the-people style has won him seven mayoral elections since 1988. Like many others there, she was dressed in red, the official color of the Duterte camp.
The populist mayor’s single-issue campaign focused on law and order chimed with popular anxiety about graft, crime and drug abuse, but for many his incendiary rhetoric and talk of extrajudicial killings smack worryingly of the country’s authoritarian past.