The Marcos dynasty is returning to the pinnacle of energy in the Philippines. Almost precisely 50 years after Ferdinand Marcos declared martial legislation and established a dictatorship in the nation, his namesake son is about to take over the Malacañang Presidential Palace.
Naturally, critics worry that Bongbong will replicate his father’s dictatorial ambitions and, just like outgoing President Rodrigo Duterte, ditch Western democratic companions in favour of nearer ties with China.
Upon nearer examination, nevertheless, it turns into clear that Marcos Jr must share energy with different main political dynasties.
Furthermore, in contrast to the Dutertes, the Marcoses neither have lifelong resentment in the direction of the West, nor an inexplicable infatuation with authoritarian superpowers comparable to China and Russia. Thus, the incoming Filipino president will possible pursue way more balanced relations with superpowers.
The impending return of the Marcoses to the Malacañang is a results of the household’s decades-long efforts for a “counterrevolution”, particularly overturning the 1986 “People Power” revolt that toppled their dynastic dictatorship. Indeed, Marcoses have been working towards reformist forces and slowly inching in the direction of regaining energy in the Philippines since their return from exile in 1991.
As early as the 1992 elections, simply years after the “People Power” revolt that topped their dictatorship, the Marcoses might have been restored to energy had former First Lady Imelda Marcos and former Marcos crony Eduardo Cojuangco Jr joined forces.
The eventual victor, Fidel V Ramos, himself a distant cousin of the Marcoses, gained with solely 23 p.c of the votes, far smaller than the mixed votes (28 p.c) garnered by the remnants of the former regime. Six years later, Joseph Estrada, a trusted ally, gained the presidency in an electoral landslide, largely because of the backing of the Marcoses and their legions of loyalists.
Over the succeeding a long time, the Marcoses continued to win numerous prime positions in the authorities. Marcos Jr, for occasion, has served as governor, congressman and senator all through his political profession. He misplaced the 2016 vice-presidential election by a razor-thin margin.
As I’ve beforehand written in these pages, since the early Nineteen Nineties the Marcoses have been knocking at the doorways of Malacañang by skilfully exploiting the shortcomings of the reformist administrations that got here after them.
Instead of empowering residents, post-Marcos administrations allowed the nation’s key political places of work and financial sectors to be dominated by a slender and rapacious elite. More than 80 p.c of elected legislative places of work in the Philippines have been occupied by members and constant supporters of distinguished political dynasties, together with the Marcoses, in the post-Marcosian period. In 2011, the 40 richest Filipino households on the Forbes wealth record accounted for 76 p.c of the nation’s gross home product (GDP) progress.
These failings by the reformists, coupled with the shortcomings of the judicial system that allowed Marcoses to contest prime elected places of work regardless of dealing with a number of graft and corruption fees and convictions, paved the method for the dynasty to create the needed circumstances for their return to energy.
Meanwhile, a free-for-all social media house plus a sorely poor schooling system proved a fertile floor for pro-Marcos networks of disinformation, which labored to persuade the plenty that the darkish days of dictatorship had been supposedly a “golden era” in Philippine historical past.
Marcos Jr’s election victory, nevertheless, was not in any method inevitable. Perhaps the single greatest contributor to his unprecedented electoral success was extensively common presidential daughter Sara Duterte’s choice to drop out of the presidential race.
All pre-election surveys confirmed that the longtime Davao Mayor was a shoo-in for the presidency had she not determined to slip down in favour of Marcos Jr. To put issues into context, Bongbong had the assist of merely 15 p.c of potential voters in pre-election surveys final 12 months, whereas Sara loved the assist of near a 3rd of potential voters.
But with the outgoing president prevaricating on supporting his daughter, and as a substitute favouring his longtime protégé, Senator Christopher “Bong” Go, as a possible successor, Sara Duterte determined to settle for the vice-presidential race, which she unsurprisingly dominated with even bigger margins. Hailing from the southern island of Mindanao and the Visayan ethnolinguistic group, the Dutertes proved a vital ally for the Marcoses, who hail from the north of the nation and from the Ilocano ethnolinguistic group.
Marcos Jr additionally benefitted from the weaknesses in the opposition camp. To be truthful, opposition chief Leni Robredo confronted a formidable alliance composed of each the Marcoses and Dutertes. Not to say confronting a broadly authoritarian-friendly voters, which proved sceptical of her liberal-democratic political agenda.
But the opposition additionally suffered from indecisiveness in addition to an absence of compelling narrative and a primary sense of urgency. While the Marcoses benefitted from a decades-long “Counterrevolutionary” marketing campaign, the opposition managed to drag off massive rallies, key endorsements and nationwide door-to-door campaigning solely at the eleventh hour. Had they been extra organised and proactive early on, the opposition might have mounted a extra decisive problem towards the Marcos-Duterte tandem.
The highway forward
The full restoration of the Marcoses to energy, nevertheless, shouldn’t be a trigger for whole despair for the opposition. Despite dropping the race, Robredo managed to spawn a brand new “Pink Movement”, which helped her garner shut to fifteen million votes, a 50 p.c surge in comparison with the outcomes obtained by former liberal opposition chief Manuel Roxas in the 2016 elections.
Bolstered by a military of devoted and youthful volunteers and thousands and thousands of progressive supporters from throughout the nation, Robredo can but emerge as a formidable opposition chief who might examine the worst instincts of the incoming Marcos Jr administration.
Moreover, the incoming Filipino president may even face inside resistance ought to he attempt to focus energy in the fingers of his household. To start with, he might want to take into accounts the pursuits of the Duterte household, who proved instrumental in the Marcoses’ restoration to energy.
Accusing the Marcoses of cajoling his daughter out of the presidential race, outgoing President Rodrigo Duterte has publicly lambasted his successor as a “weak leader” and a “spoiled brat”. Widely common amongst Filipinos, Duterte and his daughter will possible resist any try by the Marcoses to entrench themselves in energy.
Although vowing coverage continuity, Marcos Jr has promised to recalibrate the incumbent’s violent drug battle in favour of a extra rehabilitation-centred method. On overseas coverage, he has additionally taken a extra balanced method by emphasising the must extra vigorously defend the nation’s territorial pursuits in the South China Sea, the place the Philippines is at loggerheads with China.
Though the Marcoses clearly resent the a number of ill-gotten wealth circumstances they’re dealing with in US courts, they don’t have any lifelong resentment for the West, the place most of them obtained their schooling. In truth, Marcos Jr, who briefly attended Oxford, is named an “aficionado of British culture”, and his son, Ferdinand “Sandro” Marcos III, can also be principally British-educated.
While Marcos will possible welcome heat financial ties with Beijing, he doesn’t share the incumbent’s wild infatuation with China or Russia’s Vladimir Putin. Unlike the Dutertes, who principally spend their time partaking in provincial politics, the cosmopolitan Marcoses search and welcome engagement with the West.
Nevertheless, the long-term outlook for Philippine democracy is troubling. The incoming administration will possible oversee, together with allies in the legislature, the introduction of a brand new structure, which can defang anti-corruption our bodies, weaken institutional checks and balances, and undermine human rights and civil liberties.
The upshot could be not a twentieth century-style dictatorship however as a substitute what political scientists dub a “hybrid regime”, like the ones in Hungary or Malaysia, whereby semi-competitive elections legitimise a hegemonic coalition. Absent a concerted pushback by the liberal opposition, the Philippines may solely be left with a façade of democracy in just a few years’ time.
The views expressed in this text are the writer’s personal and don’t essentially replicate Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.