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 eponymous son will take over the presidential palace in Malacañang.
Ferdinand “Bomb” Marcos Jr. garnered more than 30 million votes in the May 9 presidential election, nearly double the number of his closest rival, incumbent Vice President Lenny Robredo.
The last time a Philippine leader enjoyed such an important electoral mandate was in 1969, when Marcos became the first postwar president to win re-election in the Philippines.
Naturally, critics fear that Bang Bang will replicate his father’s authoritarian ambitions and, like outgoing President Rodrigo Duterte, will abandon Western democratic partners in favor of a closer relationship with China. relation.
However, upon closer study, it became clear that Marcos would have to share power with other major political dynasties.
Also, unlike the Duterte family, the Marcos family has neither a lifelong grudge against the West nor an inexplicable fascination with authoritarian superpowers such as China and Russia. As a result, the incoming Philippine president may seek a more balanced relationship with the superpower.
The Marcos family’s imminent return to Malacañang is the result of decades of the family’s efforts to “counter-revolution”, the 1986 “people power” uprising that overthrew their dynastic dictatorship. In fact, since returning from exile in 1991, Marcoses has been battling reformist forces and has gradually returned to power in the Philippines.
Back in the 1992 election, just a few years after the “people power” uprising toppled the dictatorship, if former first lady Imelda Marcos and former Marcos confidant Eduardo Kojonco Jr joined forces, The Marcos family could have returned to power.
The eventual victor, Fidel V Ramos, himself a distant cousin of the Marcos family, won with just 23 percent of the vote, well below the combined 28 percent for the remnants of the previous regime. Six years later, trusted ally Joseph Estrada has won the presidency in a landslide, thanks in large part to the support of the Marcos family and its legion of loyalists .
In the decades that followed, the Marcos family went on to win various top positions in government. For example, Marcos Jr. has served as governor, congressman and senator throughout his political career. He narrowly lost the 2016 vice presidential election.
as i did before write on these pagessince the early 1990s, Marcos has been knocking on the door of Malacañang, cleverly exploiting the shortcomings of the reformist government that followed them.
Instead of empowering citizens, the post-Marcos government has allowed the country’s major political institutions and economic sectors to be controlled by a narrow and greedy elite. In the post-Marcos era, more than 80 percent of the Philippines’ elected legislature is occupied by members and loyal supporters of prominent political dynasties, including the Marcos dynasty. In 2011, the 40 richest Filipino households on the Forbes wealth list accounted for 76 percent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) growth.
These reformist failures, combined with a flawed judicial system, have allowed Marcos to run for the top elected office despite multiple embezzlement and corruption charges and convictions, paving the way for the dynasty to create the conditions necessary to return to power.
Meanwhile, a free social media space coupled with a woefully inadequate education system proved fertile ground for the pro-Marcos disinformation networks that helped convince the masses that the dark days of the dictatorship were said to be the Philippines’ “golden” era” history.
Marcos’ electoral victory was not inevitable, however. Perhaps the biggest contributor to his unprecedented electoral success was the decision by the popular president’s daughter, Sarah Duterte, to drop out of the presidential race.
All pre-election surveys suggest that the longtime Davao mayor was a supporter of the presidency if she hadn’t decided to have Marcos support Marcos Jr. To illustrate, Bang Bang has the support of only 15 percent of potential voters. In last year’s pre-election poll, Sarah was backed by nearly a third of potential voters.
But as the outgoing president shied away from supporting his daughter in favor of his longtime protégé, Senator Christopher “Bong” Goh, as a potential successor, Sarah Duterte decided to settle for the vice presidential bid instead of Unsurprisingly, she dominated the race by a larger margin. The Dutertes, who are from the southern Mindanao and Visayas ethnolinguistic groups, proved to be important allies of the Marcos family, who hail from the country’s northern and Ilocano ethnolinguistic groups.
Marcos also benefited from weaknesses in the opposition camp. To be fair, opposition leader Lenny Robredo faces a strong coalition of Marcos and Duterte. Not to mention facing a broadly authoritarian constituency that proves skeptical of her liberal democratic political agenda.
But the opposition also suffers from indecision, a lack of a convincing narrative and a basic sense of urgency. While the Marcos family benefited from a decades-long “counter-revolutionary” movement, it was only in the 11th hour that the opposition managed to stage large rallies, key support and a nationwide door-to-door campaign. Had they been more organised and proactive early on, the opposition could have mounted a more decisive challenge to the Marcos-Duterte tandem.
However, the full recovery of the Marcos family should not be the cause of complete despair for the opposition. Despite the loss, Robredo managed to spawn a new “pink movement” that helped her garner nearly 15 million votes against former Liberal Opposition leader Manuel Rojas in the 2016 election Compared with the results obtained in , an increase of 50%.
With the support of a dedicated group of young volunteers and millions of progressive supporters from across the country, Robredo can still be a formidable opposition leader who can check the worst instincts of the incoming Marcos administration .
In addition, the incoming Philippine president will also face internal resistance if he tries to concentrate power in the hands of his family. First, he needs to consider the interests of the Duterte family, which has played a major role in the Marcos family’s return to power.
Outgoing President Rodrigo Duterte has accused the Marcoses family of coaxing their daughter out of the presidential race, publicly slamming his successor as a ‘weak leader’ and a ‘spoiled brat’ . Duterte and his daughter, widely popular among Filipinos, are likely to resist any attempts by the Marcos family to consolidate their power.
Despite vowing policy continuity, Marcos Jr. has pledged to realign the current president’s violent drug war in favor of a more recovery-focused approach. On foreign policy, he has also taken a more balanced approach, emphasizing the need to more aggressively defend the country’s territorial interests in the South China Sea, where the Philippines has a dispute with China.
While the Marcos are clearly unhappy with the multiple ill-gotten-gain cases they face in U.S. courts, they don’t have a lifelong grudge against the West, where most of them were educated. In fact, little Marcos, who briefly attended Oxford University, is known as a “British Culture Lover,” and his son, Ferdinand “Sandro” Marcos III, was also mostly British educated.
While Marcos may welcome friendly economic relations with Beijing, he is not as obsessed with China or Russia’s Vladimir Putin as the current president. Unlike the Dutertes, who spend their time mainly in provincial politics, the cosmopolitan Marcos seek and welcome engagement with the West.
However, the long-term prospects for Philippine democracy are troubling. The incoming administration, with allies in the legislature, could oversee the introduction of a new constitution, which could undermine anti-corruption agencies, weaken institutional checks and balances, and undermine human rights and civil liberties.
The result will not be 20th-century-style dictatorships, but what political scientists call “hybrid regimes,” as in Hungary or Malaysia, where semi-competitive elections legitimize hegemonic alliances. Without unanimous opposition from the liberal opposition, the Philippines could be left with only the surface of democracy in a few years.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial position.