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What’s next for the Philippines after the election?

Son of former dictator wins election in Philippines
Son of former dictator wins election in Philippines (Source: Zenith Pictures / Shutterstock.com)

Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr, the son and namesake of the late Philippine dictator, has won the election in the Philippines, according to the latest projections. The 64-year-old received more than 31 million votes, more than twice as many as his closest rival, the current Vice President Leni Robredo.

According to the Philippine electoral system, the candidate with the most votes wins, regardless of achieving a majority. The official results, confirmed by the Philippine Congress, are not expected for a few weeks.

Marcos’ victory is the culmination of decades of efforts by his family to regain power. In 1986, the People Power Revolution ended his father’s 20-year rule and forced the Marcos into exile in Hawaii until the early 1990s.

His father’s presidency, marked by corruption and human rights abuses, is an issue that still divides the country. Supporters of the Marcos family say it was a time of prosperity and progress for the Philippines. Critics say infrastructure projects, including the construction of hospitals, roads and bridges, have been realised through widespread corruption, foreign loans and escalating debt. In addition, tens of thousands of people were imprisoned, tortured or killed under the prevailing martial law from 1972 to 1981, according to human rights groups.

Election campaign under the slogan “national unity”

In his election campaign, Marcos Jr. avoided all issues related to his family – national unity was his message. Human rights activists fear that the new president could rule even more autocratically than the previous president, Duterte.

Journalist Maria Ressa, 2021 Nobel Peace Prize winner, told CNN a Marcos win shows “not just Filipinos but the world, the impact of disinformation on a democracy. He will determine the future of this country but simultaneously its past.”
Analysts and investors are also concerned about the Marcos’ return to power. The election has weighed on the Philippine Stock Exchange’s benchmark index. The Philippine Stock Exchange Index, or PSEi, closed down 0.6 percent at 6,720.93 on Tuesday, the day after the election, its lowest level in nine months. At one point it fell 3.1%. Looking at the broader Philippine Stock Exchange All Share Index, it made losses of up to 2.9%, wiping out 488 billion pesos ($9.3 billion).

No clear economic programme

Marcos Jr. promises to create more jobs and revive the economy, which has been battered by the pandemic. He is considering subsidies to curb oil prices. He also wants to continue the “Build, Build, Build” infrastructure programme initiated by President Rodrigo Duterte. Analysts criticise him for not having a clear plan.

Jonathan Ravelas, chief market strategist at BDO Unibank, told Forbes Asia that investors would stay on the sidelines until the new president provides a clear and concrete plan to tackle rising poverty, strengthen healthcare, deal with inflation and manage debt. “Investors would like to see his economic team.”

Marcos Jr. inherits an economy that is well on its way to recovering from the coronavirus pandemic but is challenged with inflation and debt. Inflation accelerated to 4.9% in April, the highest since December 2018.

“The incoming president will need to treat inflation as a top economic priority,” Moody’s Analytics said in a report. “Inflation management has become a key policy point. Since early 2022, household discretionary income has come under threat from higher prices for staples,” it added.

Due to the pandemic, the Philippines suffered the sharpest economic decline (9.5%) of the post-war period in 2020. In 2021, the economy recovered by 5.6%. For this year, the government expects growth of 7% to 9%.