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Philippine Presidential Candidate Marcos Jr. Casts Election Ballot

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INTERNATIONAL: Polls opened in the Philippines today in the country's most divisive presidential election in decades, with the prospect of a once-unthinkable return to rule of the Marcos family, 36 years after they were toppled in a "people power" uprising.

The election pits Vice President Leni Robredo against former senator and congressman Ferdinand Marcos Jr, the son and namesake of a dictator whose two decade rule ended in a public revolt and his family's humiliating retreat into exile.

Opinion polls put Marcos, popularly known as "Bongbong", leading his rival by over 30 percentage points, having topped every poll this year. That means Robredo will need a late surge or low turnout if she is to win the presidency.

Voters started lining up long before polls opened at 6 a.m. (2200 GMT Sunday), with polling stations due to operate for longer than usual because of COVID-19 precautions.

Polls close at 7 p.m. and an unofficial vote count could give an indication of the winner within hours.

Marcos, 64, has presented no real policy platform but his presidency is expected to provide continuity from outgoing leader Rodrigo Duterte, whose ruthless, strongman approach proved popular and helped him to consolidate power rapidly.

Robredo, 57, a former human rights lawyer and staunch liberal, has pledged to improve education and welfare, fight poverty and improve market competition if elected.

Marcos cast his ballot in his home province of Ilocos Norte, and only briefly spoke to journalists on his way out.

Marcos is buoyed by the support of many younger Filipinos born after the 1986 revolution, having launched a massive social media offensive in an upbeat campaign that has carried undertones of historical revisionism.

His supporters and social media influencers have dismissed narratives of plunder, cronyism and brutality under the martial law of his late father as lies peddled by opponents, presenting what his critics say is a different version of history. The Marcos camp has denied running misinformation campaigns.

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