Philippine President Benigno Aquino on Friday endorsed his interior minister to succeed him when he steps down next June, saying Manuel "Mar" Roxas would drive forward reforms that put the country among the fastest-growing in Asia.
Aquino endorses interior minister as successor
Despite the poor ratings, many in business circles favour Roxas.
The constitution limits Aquino to a single six-year term, so the Southeast Asian nation will elect a new president next May, along with more than 17,000 national and local officials.
But the prospect of the elections is giving the jitters to foreign investors lured by governance reforms and average growth of more than 6 percent under Aquino, the country's best 5-year performance in four decades.
"In my opinion, the person who has shown competence and integrity, who is ripe and well prepared to continue the 'Straight Path', is no other than Mar Roxas," Aquino told a cheering crowd of supporters at the historic Club Filipino.
That is where his late mother Corazon, the widow of another Philippine democracy hero, was sworn in as president in 1986, after a popular revolt ousted dictator Ferdinand Marcos.
Aquino and Roxas, wearing the yellow favoured by the ruling Liberal Party, raised their hands amid a shower of confetti and chants of "Roxas Na" (Time for Roxas).
Like Aquino, Roxas comes from an influential political family, his father having been a former legislator and his grandfather the Philippines' first president after World War Two.
"With this endorsement, I feel you are passing on to me what they had fought for," Roxas said in his acceptance speech, his voice cracking as he referred to the political legacy.
"I will not depart from the 'Straight Path'. I will give my all, I will not leave anything for myself. I will leave everything on the floor for this fight."
Roxas ran for vice president along with Aquino in the 2010 elections, but he lost to Jejomar Binay, who quit the cabinet last month amid corruption charges.
In the May polls, Roxas, 58, a Wharton-educated economist and former investment banker, will again face Binay.
Roxas, with a 21 percent popularity rating in a survey by independent pollster Social Weather Stations, trails Binay's 34 percent, although he, too, was overtaken in June by first-time Senator Grace Poe, who scored 42 percent, but has yet to declare a presidential bid.
"There is still work that needs to be done, that has to be continued by someone who understands what has been started," said Peter Perfecto, executive director of the influential Makati Business Club group.
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