MANILA: Noisy, banner-waving supporters cheered on candidates in the Philippines on Thursday as they registered for mid-term elections next year seen as a referendum on President Rodrigo Duterte's administration.
The Commission on Elections, which will oversee the nationwide polls in May 2019, said it wanted to get an early start on registration and keep it from turning into a "circus of supporters".
"The goal of our preparations now is to make sure that the filing is dignified," said spokesman James Jimenez.
Some candidates who registered at commission office on Thursday did not appear to get the message.
One candidate brought a brass band. Others were cheered on by placard-waving supporters wearing the colours of their candidates' political party.
A rock band singer, basketball players and TV soap stars are among the candidates expected to join a race that also includes members of current political families and past dynasties.
The eldest daughter of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, 62-year-old Imee Marcos, governor in the family's stronghold northern Ilocos province, is running for senator.
Nearly 320 seats in the two-chamber legislature and more than 17,000 local government positions, from 81 provincial governors to more than 1,500 municipal councillors, will be contested nationwide.
The race for the Senate's 12 vacant seats is seen as a of referendum on Duterte's presidency since June 2016, said Earl Parreno of the Institute for Political and Electoral Reforms.
"The mid-term elections will test not only the president's popularity and strength, but if he can continue to push for his agenda in the second half of his term," Parreno told Reuters.
(Reporting By Manuel Mogato; Editing By Michael Perry & Simon Cameron-Moore)