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The Philippines' Duterte: In pursuit of an imperial presidency

14 27 0

Although President Rodrigo Duterte's name was not on the ballot in the May 13 midterm elections in the Philippines, the vote served as a referendum on his disruptive and unorthodox leadership.

Over the past three years, the controversial Filipino leader has defied practically every political convention and general public decorum. To the utter shock of even his closest aides, he has insulted the Catholic faith, cussed at American leaders, openly embraced China as a "friend", and unleashed a scorched-earth drug war that has claimed the lives of thousands of people.

The democratic opposition sought to leverage the elections to check Duterte's worst instincts. Instead, they suffered their greatest electoral defeat in recent history, setting the stage for an imperial presidency with potentially dire consequences for Philippine democracy.

Duterte's allies won a significant part of the 18,000 elected offices up for grabs in municipal, city, provincial and legislative races across the country. Most crucially, they secured a supermajority in both the House of Representatives and the Senate.

Thus, the midterm elections have given the president a carte blanche to push his authoritarian populist agenda to its logical conclusion, including the introduction of a new constitution that serves his interests.

To be fair, those who the presidential administration backs tend to perform well during midterm elections in the Philippines. The main reason for this is because parties aligned with the presidency tend to benefit from the vast resources of the state, including financing and security services.

As a result, the opposition is usually at a great disadvantage given limited resources available. This election season, Duterte's opponents struggled with scarce funding, found few local government units willing to host their campaign events, and relied heavily on volunteers for their campaigns.

Having no strong,........

© Al Jazeera