The Many Surprises of the 2016 Philippines Elections

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The Many Surprises of the 2016 Philippines Elections

Poll results point to several outcomes few would have expected just months ago.

According to the initial estimate of the Commission on Elections (Comelec), more than 40 million Filipinos were able to cast their votes on May 9. The number represents about 81 percent of total number of voters, surpassing the voter turnout in the 2010 presidential election. Meanwhile, overseas absentee voting went up by a whopping 300 percent.

There were several surprises in the election results: First, the landslide victory of Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte who is now set to become the Philippines’ 16th president. Second, the close race between Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr and neophyte Congresswoman Leni Robredo for the vice presidency. And third, the possible entry into the senate of new and young leaders.

Duterte’s electoral success is phenomenal since he will be the first president from Mindanao in the south, the country’s second biggest island plagued by extreme poverty and numerous local conflicts. Duterte, who first became popular last year because of his image as a crime fighter, defeated four other prominent and resource-rich candidates. Duterte introduced himself as a man of the masses and an ordinary politician from the province who is prepared to rid the country of crime and corruption in less than six months. Frustrated by the repeated failures of Manila-based politicians, an overwhelming number of voters gave their support to the tough-talking leader from Davao.

As stipulated in the constitution, if Duterte is proclaimed president, he will take his oath as leader of the country on June 30.

If Duterte’s victory is already accepted by many, the vice presidential contest is not yet over as of this writing. In the Philippines, the vice president vote takes place separately from that of the president.

Senator Marcos, the son and namesake of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos who ruled the country from 1965 to 1986, was ahead in most pre-election surveys but his numbers started to decline when his rivals campaigned strongly for the remembrance of the dark legacy of martial law and other crimes purportedly committed by the Marcos family. His main rival is administration candidate Robredo, a first-term congresswoman who is known for her pro-poor advocacies. Robredo is ahead by almost 300,000 votes in unofficial quick counts but the transmission of votes is not yet over. Whoever wins between Marcos and Robredo will become vice president by a very slim margin.

The senate race also yielded some unexpected results. So far, only 7 out of 12 new senators are expected to come from the administration party. Two incumbent senators are losing in the unofficial transmission of results. Most of the winners are members of prominent political families while some are young leaders who became national figures because of their Cabinet stint in the Aquino government. Meanwhile, world boxing champion Manny Pacquiao is expected to be proclaimed Senator Pacquiao in the coming days.

Another big surprise is the quick transmission of votes. Polling centers closed at 5:00 pm and the results are known in many regions in less than two hours. Most Filipinos already knew that Duterte was the landslide winner a few hours after the end of voting because of the automated relay of the results from the provinces. Shortly before midnight, presidential candidate Grace Poe held a press conference to congratulate Duterte. Administration candidate Mar Roxas conceded a day after the elections.

The fast uploading of vote results offset the numerous technical glitches that marred the voting process in numerous polling centers. Hundreds of vote counting machines malfunctioned, which delayed and disrupted the elections across the country. There were also fears that vote results will be manipulated because the Comelec website was hacked two weeks before election day.

The majority of winners in the local elections are members of the ruling Liberal Party. But analysts expect most of these newly-elected leaders to switch allegiance to the party of president-elect Duterte in the next few weeks.