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Ferdinand Marcos, Jr., is poised to win the Philippine presidency by a landslide

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

The Philippines has a presumptive winner for its presidential election, and he has a familiar name. Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has emerged with around 30 million votes, according to unofficial tallies by the Philippines Commission on Elections. That is double the number of votes of his nearest competitor, Vice President Leni Robredo. It marks the culmination of the Marcos family's desire to return to the presidential palace 35 years after the family's patriarch, Ferdinand Marcos Sr., was ousted in a popular uprising over corruption and human rights violations.

Joining us now from Manila is NPR's Julie McCarthy. Hey, Julie.

JULIE MCCARTHY, BYLINE: Hi there.

CHANG: All right. So Marcos was projected to win, right? But this appears to have been a margin of victory that I understand not even his most generous voter surveys forecasted. Is that correct?

MCCARTHY: That's correct. One quick little qualifier - the official count begins Tuesday afternoon here, and the winner will be announced in the coming days. But these preliminary numbers tonight indicate an extraordinary comeback for the Marcos family that was forced into exile more than three decades ago.

And Marcos briefly appeared at the campaign headquarters here in Manila tonight when it appeared that his lead was unassailable. He was calm, but there was emotion in his voice, Ailsa, as he was thanking those who had made this extraordinary night possible.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

FERDINAND MARCOS JR: I want to thank you for all that you have done for us. There are thousands of you out there - volunteers, parallel groups, political leaders - that have cast their lot with us because of their belief in our message of unity.

MCCARTHY: This unity theme, you know, has been criticized as vague, and it raised questions about whether he had solid policy plans to govern. And this evening, commentator Richard Heydarian said he hoped it meant that Marcos would govern for all, including those who did not vote for him. Here he is.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

RICHARD HEYDARIAN: It's also important that prospective President Marcos also sends the right signal to supporters that he should lead by example. If he's really someone who's not into negative campaigning, into fights, he really wants unity, I hope his supporters also appreciate that.

CHANG: And what does it mean, Julie, for the Philippines that the son of a dictator that was once so feared now stands poised to take the reins of power?

MCCARTHY: Yeah. It's history coming full circle here. And it didn't happen overnight. The Marcos revival is a long-term enterprise built over years. And it capitalized on a couple of things - on Filipinos fed up with successive governments that didn't deliver change, more equality, most prominently. And then there was the entire template of disinformation that characterized the election campaign. How it was waged is being very closely watched outside the Philippines, and the message is that disinformation works. And the dynasty is alive and well. And the Marcoses have been practitioners of both. Marcos Jr. denies he has anything to do with the disinformation of rivals like Leni Robredo, but the fact is, he was very robust in rewriting the Marcos family legacy. He starred in slick videos that cast his father as a visionary, airbrushing out any corruption and abuses.

CHANG: Well, speaking of political dynasties, what about the Duterte family? Didn't Sara Duterte run for vice president alongside Marcos Jr.?

MCCARTHY: She did. That's right. Two dynasties have paired up and won the brass ring, evidently. Sarah Duterte is the daughter of President Duterte, and she actually kept pace through the night with Marcos, vote for vote. He's now pulled ahead, but they're a very strong team here. And what it says is these dynasties have the means and the political might - in this case, certainly - to suck the oxygen out of the room, really. And it's a perennial concern for those worried for Philippine democracy and opening it up to others to participate.

CHANG: That is NPR's Julie McCarthy in Manila. Thank you, Julie.

MCCARTHY: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Julie McCarthy has spent most of career traveling the world for NPR. She's covered wars, prime ministers, presidents and paupers. But her favorite stories "are about the common man or woman doing uncommon things," she says.