Maverick mayor Duterte takes chunky lead in Philippines vote count

Manila, May 9

Firebrand Philippine city mayor Rodrigo Duterte took a commanding lead as unofficial presidential election results poured in today, suggesting the political outsider’s pledges to crush crime and corruption had carried the day.

Three hours after polling stations had closed, a rolling ballot count by an election commission-accredited watchdog showed about 40 per cent of the votes cast were in his favour. An exit poll of a small number of voters showed a similar lead.

Asked by a television interviewer what he thought about his apparent victory, Duterte gave a puzzling answer.

“Sometimes I’m victorious and the winner, sometimes there’s always losing and being sad, sometimes being sick and healthy,” he told CNN Philippines, slouched in a chair and dressed casually in a checked, short-sleeve shirt.

“That is how the universe is being played every day.”

The 71-year-old’s defiance of political tradition has drawn comparisons with US Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, as has his regular references to his libido.

His man-of-the-people demeanour tapped into popular disgust with the political establishment over its failure to tackle poverty and inequality despite several uninterrupted years of robust economic growth.

His incendiary rhetoric and advocacy of extra-judicial killings to stamp out crime and drugs have, however, alarmed many who hear echoes of the Southeast Asian country’s authoritarian past.

The election numbers reported by the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting had, by 1208 GMT, accounted for about 60 per cent of the 54 million registered Filipino voters.

Duterte had 10.4 million votes, with Senator Grace Poe a distant second with 5.9 million. The government’s candidate, Manuel Roxas, was just behind Poe with 5.8 million.