Philippines election: Rodrigo Duterte tipped to win

KONFRONTASI-Filipinos have voted in a presidential election that the populist mayor of the southern city of Davao, Rodrigo Duterte, is the favourite to win.

Many voters in the capital 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 conduct a transparent, reliable election and declare a victor in 24 hours.

Al Jazeera's Marga Ortigas, reporting from Manila, said "The commission on elections has promised transparency but already the reliability of the automated polls are being called in to question.

"The computer system was hacked just a few weeks ago, and there are fears of widespread cheating."

Many areas of Philippines are dominated by feuding political families who have used bribes and cohesion to get their way. At least 15 people have been killed in election-related violence in the run-up to the polls.

Security forces are on high alert and citizens' groups are watching polling centres closely. 

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 frontrunner by brazenly defying political tradition, much as Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has done in the United States.

The populist mayor's single-issue campaign focused on law and order chimed with popular anxiety about corruption, crime and drug abuse, but for many his incendiary rhetoric and talk of extrajudicial killings echo the country's authoritarian past.

Duterte's lead has concerned the ruling party so much that, a few days before the poll, the outgoing President Benigno Aquino called for the four other presidential candidates in the race to unite against the mayor, for the good of the country. But none of the candidates backed down.

Al Jazeera's Wayne Hay, reporting from Duterte's homebase, Davao, said the mayor's supporters see him as an authentic man of action.

"He is very popular here. One of the reasons he is so popular is his crackdown on crime," he said. "This used to be regarded as one of the most dangerous cities in Philippines, but now it's regarded perhaps as one of the safest.

"His supporters, people who are voting for him, believe he should take a lot of credit for that."

But critics disapprove of Duterte's brash manner and question his ties to vigilante killings. They also claim the controversial mayor's election pledges are unrealistic.

"He made some astonishing claims that in the first three to six months of office he is going to solve major problems, like crime and corruption," Richard Heydarian of De La Salle University told Al Jazeera.

"Of course no experts will agree with him."

Elections in the Philippines are traditionally difficult to predict, but two opinion polls last week suggested Duterte had a lead of 11 percentage points over his nearest rival, with support from across all socioeconomic demographic groups.

In the hometown of former dictator Ferdinand Marcos, Batac city, support for the Marcos family is still strong.

Thirty years after the family was forced to flee Manila’s Malacanang palace, the son of the late leader, Ferdinand Marcos Jr, is close to becoming the country's new vice president.

Ferdinand Marcos Jr came out to vote early in the morning in Batac.

"He said he is very confident about victory," Al Jazeera's Sohail Rahman, reporting from the polling station where the candidate voted, said.

Ferdinand Marcos Jr's 86-year-old mother, Imelda Marcos, is also taking part in Monday's election.

The former first lady, who famously left behind her trove of designer shoes when Marcos' family was flown out of the presidential palace on a US helicopter towards exile in Hawaii, has been serving in the congress, and in this election she is seeking to win her congressional seat once again to go back to Manila.

If she wins, this will be her third and last term in congress. 

More than half of the population of 100 million people are registered to vote in the election to choose a president, vice-president, 300 politicians and about 18,000 local government officials.[mr/aje]