Polls have closed in the Philippines presidential election with an unofficial, partial tally of votes suggesting a strong lead for populist mayor Rodrigo Duterte.
Andy Bautista, head of the polling commission, said voter turnout in Monday’s election was estimated at 80 percent, which he said was a record in the country.
While authorities described the overall conduct of the elections as peaceful, police said at least 10 people died across the country in election day violence as gunmen attacked polling stations, ambushed vehicles and stole vote-counting machines.
Based on 58 percent of votes counted, Duterte, whose controversial campaign focused on a pledge to kill criminals, had 10,058,740 votes, GMA, a national news website, said, citing figures from the election commission. He was followed by Grace Poe at 5,713,909 and Manuel Roxas on 5,562,958,
“I ain’t there until I am there,” Duterte told CNN Philippines after receiving the early results. “If it is my destiny to be there then I accept it.”
In the vice-presidential race, former dictator Ferdinand Marcos’ son, Ferdinand “Bongbong’ Marcos Jr, took a early lead, according to the unofficial results.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines National Election Monitoring Center said in a statement that they monitored 22 election-related violent incidents.
In the worst attack, seven people were shot dead in an ambush before dawn in Rosario, a town just outside of Manila known for political violence, Chief Inspector Jonathan del Rosario, spokesman for a national police election monitoring task force, told the AFP news agency.
Another 15 people were killed in election-related violence in the run-up to the polls.
Many areas of Philippines are dominated by feuding political families. Security forces were on high alert for the vote and citizens’ groups were watching polling centres closely.
There were several reports of electronic voting machine hitches, and voting was extended in several districts after delays in the opening of polling centres.
Al Jazeera’s Marga Ortigas, reporting from Manila, said: “The commission on elections has promised transparency but already the reliability of the automated polls are being called in to question.
“The computer system was hacked just a few weeks ago, and there are fears of widespread cheating.”
The election campaign exposed widespread disgust with the Southeast Asian country’s ruling elite for failing to tackle poverty and inequality despite years of robust economic growth.
Tapping into that sentiment, Duterte, mayor of the southern city of Davao, emerged as the frontrunner by brazenly defying political tradition, much as Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has done in the United States.
The mayor’s single-issue campaign focused on law and order chimed with popular anxiety about corruption, crime and drug abuse, but for many his incendiary rhetoric and talk of extrajudicial killings echo the country’s authoritarian past.
Duterte’s lead has concerned the ruling party so much that, a few days before the poll, the outgoing President Benigno Aquino called for the four other presidential candidates in the race to unite against the mayor, for the good of the country. But none of the candidates backed down.
Al Jazeera’s Wayne Hay, reporting from Duterte’s homebase, Davao, said the mayor’s supporters see him as an authentic man of action.
“He is very popular here. One of the reasons he is so popular is his crackdown on crime,” he said. “This used to be regarded as one of the most dangerous cities in Philippines, but now it’s regarded perhaps as one of the safest.
“His supporters, people who are voting for him, believe he should take a lot of credit for that.”
But critics disapprove of Duterte’s brash manner and question his ties to vigilante killings. They also claim the controversial mayor’s election pledges are unrealistic.
“He made some astonishing claims that in the first three to six months of office he is going to solve major problems, like crime and corruption,” Richard Heydarian of De La Salle University told Al Jazeera.
“Of course no experts will agree with him.”
In the hometown of former dictator Ferdinand Marcos, Batac city, support for the Marcos family is still strong.
Thirty years after the family was forced to flee Manila’s Malacanang palace, the son of the late leader, Ferdinand Marcos Jr, is close to becoming the country’s new vice president.
Ferdinand Marcos Jr came out to vote early in the morning in Batac.
“He said he is very confident about victory,” Al Jazeera’s Sohail Rahman, reporting from the polling station where the candidate voted, said.
Ferdinand Marcos Jr’s 86-year-old mother, Imelda Marcos, is also taking part in Monday’s election.
The former first lady, who famously left behind her trove of designer shoes when Marcos’ family was flown out of the presidential palace on a US helicopter towards exile in Hawaii, has been serving in the congress, and in this election she is seeking to win her congressional seat once again to go back to Manila.
If she wins, this will be her third and last term in congress.
More than half of the population of 100 million people were registered to vote in the election to choose a president, vice-president, 300 politicians and about 18,000 local government officials.[Source: Al-Jazeera]