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Ferdinand Marcos Jr. delivers a speech during a campaign rally.

REUTERS/Eloisa Lopez

How will Marcos 2.0 rule the Philippines?

The Marcoses are back in power in the Philippines.

What seemed unthinkable just months ago became reality on Monday. Ferdinand Marcos Jr., the son of the late dictator, is on the cusp of winning the presidential election by a landslide. What's more, he's the first candidate to get more than 50% of the vote in the single-round race since his family was chased out of power in 1986.

This decisive triumph is the culmination of a decades-long quest by the most famous and polarizing dynasty in modern Philippine politics to restore its legacy and return to Malacañang Palace. But will Marcos govern like his autocrat dad or deliver on his vague promise of "unity" to appease Filipinos with bitter memories of his father’s iron-fisted rule and kleptocracy?

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What We're Watching: Filipinos vote, Taliban vs Afghan women

Is the Philippines ready for Marcos 2.0?

Filipinos go to the polls Monday to vote in perhaps the most consequential and polarizing presidential election in recent memory. The clear frontrunner is Ferdinand Marcos Jr., the son and namesake of the late dictator. Marcos is leading the polls by a 30-point margin over Vice President Leni Robredo, who has campaigned on a message of good governance to contrast with the kleptocracy associated with the 21-year rule of the senior Marcos. Despite her long odds, Robredo supporters hope that their candidate's late surge in popularity and possibly lower-than-expected turnout could turn the tide in their favor. Marcos, meanwhile, is confident of a victory that'll return his family to Malacañang Palace 36 years after his dad and shoe-loving mom Imelda were chased out of power and into exile in Hawaii. His election would be yet another triumph for political dynasties, which have tightened their long-held grip on Philippine politics in recent years (Marcos' running mate for VP is none other than the daughter of outgoing President Rodrigo Duterte). Though his victory seems inevitable, will Marcos' many critics accept the result?

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Ferdinand Marcos Jr. delivers a speech during a campaign rally.

REUTERS/Eloisa Lopez

Dynasty + disinformation = Philippine democracy

The Philippine presidential election is a week away, and two uncomfortable characteristics of modern democracy in the country — dynasty and disinformation — are expected to shape the result.

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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and French President Emmanuel Macron. February 8, 2022.

Ukrainian Presidential Press Service

Macron in Kyiv, Philippine vote, Haiti assassination probe

Macron does the rounds. French President Emmanuel Macron is on a diplomatic tour to find a solution to the Ukraine crisis. On Monday, he met with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The two chatted for five hours, with Macron reporting he had “secured an assurance there would be no deterioration or escalation.” But Russia later said Macron’s version was “not right,” and pushed back against reports that Putin had agreed to withdraw troops from Belarus. Was Putin lashing out because Macron left the Kremlin to fly to Kyiv where he reaffirmed Europe's commitment to Ukraine? Either way, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who’s set to meet with Putin in Moscow on Feb. 15, will be taking note. Tellingly, Macron appeared less sanguine in Kyiv, saying the stalemate could continue for months.

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What We’re Watching: Zemmour jumps in, Bong bows out, Turks get mad

Zemmour for president. After months of rising in opinion polls, far-right French polemicist Erich Zemmour has made it official: he’s running in next year’s French presidential election. Zemmour, who blames Muslims, liberals, elites, and the EU for what he sees as the decline and emasculation of France, says he is running in order to “prevent our children and our grandchildren from experiencing barbarity.” Could he win? Never say jamais these days, particularly as Zemmour has something of Donald Trump’s provocative star power and media savvy. Still, most polls show that while he could reach a second-round runoff against current President Emmanuel Macron, he would then lose decisively as moderates from across the political spectrum unite behind the incumbent. The more immediate political problem is for far-right stalwart Marine Le Pen who, in trying to broaden her appeal beyond the far right, now finds herself outflanked by the more unapologetically extreme Zemmour.

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A woman holds a placard during a protest following the vice presidential bid of Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte, daughter of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, for the 2022 national elections, at the Commission of Human Rights, in Quezon City, Metro Manila, Philippines, November 14, 2021.

REUTERS/Lisa Marie David/File Photo

Philippine presidential election: “All in the family”

Philippine elections have always been, Filipinos will candidly admit, a bit of a circus. Come campaign season, politicians fan out across the country, showing off their best tricks to lure voters into giving them their support.

So, what does it take to get elected president? Not coherent programs to cut widespread poverty and rampant corruption. Everyone knows those promises will surely not be kept.

The holy grail of Philippine politics is name recognition. Yet it's not enough to simply be famous. The golden ticket is to belong to a well-known political family.

Even better, join forces with another powerful dynasty — which is exactly what the two biggest names in Philippine politics today have done to win the May 2022 presidential election.

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Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping (R) speaks next to U.S. Vice President Joe Biden during talks at a hotel in Beijing August 19, 2011.

REUTERS/Ng Han Guan/Pool

What We’re Watching: Biden-Xi on Zoom, Cuban protest, Duterte family drama, Qaddafi junior for prez, Steele Dossier skewered

US-China virtual summit. Joe Biden and Xi Jinping will meet face-to-face (virtually) on Monday for the first time since Biden became US president last January. The two have a lot to discuss: trade wars, the 2022 Beijing Olympics — which Biden won't attend, but probably won't boycott — and how to deliver on the joint US-China pledge on climate made at COP26. But the elephant in the Zoom room is Taiwan, an ultra-sensitive issue for China. Xi is seething at the Biden administration's recent public support for the self-governing island, which the Chinese regard as part of their own territory. The Americans insist they are simply doing what they've always done since 1979 — pledging to help Taiwan defend itself. Can Biden and Xi navigate these issues in a calm, cool way? It may help that the two leaders have known each other for more than a decade, when they were both VPs. With US-China relations getting chillier by the day, the stakes are high.

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