Wednesday, June 15, 2016

An opportunity for parties

The recent election might just have provided an opportunity for political parties to firm up and take real shape.  What could they do? They could each form shadow cabinets.

The shadow cabinet, similar to the ones in the United Kingdom, would be composed of senior leaders of the non-ruling parties to mirror the cabinet of the incoming government.  Each member of the shadow cabinet would lead on a specific policy area for the party and to question and challenge their counterpart in the cabinet. In this way the official opposition seeks to present itself as an alternative government-in-waiting. [] 

Here are some reasons to do this now, never mind that elective tenures are currently fixed:

1.  Apparently the incoming government needs a clear vision and policies.  They appear to be reputation-centered; and the Partido ng Demokratikong Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban) would be saddled with not governing, but with keeping numerous balls up in the air, each of which would be a piece of interest of the "members" of the supermajority.

2.  There are critical yet controversial solutions proposed to address various issues. Among them: the restoration of death penalty; emergency powers for the president to attempt to solve the traffic crisis in the metro areas and for other issues; turning the police into likely bounty hunters through kill rewards; arming civilians to help fight "drugsters"; constitutional change; and of course, claims on the West Philippine Sea.

3.  It appears that the conditions for constitutional change could be made more favorable by the incoming administration.  Those conditions would be unlike 1986 when the only viable option was for the then-president Cory Aquino to appoint members of the constitutional convention. This planned one would be different.  Interests and all-boys clubs will likely rule. They will get themselves elected to shape the constitution to their tastes.

The opposition/s, in a dynamic democracy like ours, need/s to chime-in and take away the spotlight from the just-one perspective.  They should offer the already-engaged public with sound alternative solutions and arguments in order to explore or exhausts the issues better (and in the process differentiate themselves from the others).  We all could go to the polls sooner that we expect.

For 2016 a total of 169 parties registered with the Commission on Elections, 46 of which are national.  Not all of them would be capable of putting up a shadow cabinet. But with some consolidation, if necessary, at least the big names, national and regional, could. Easily.

Now more than ever, there could be room for party institutes to be put up to research and take positions on issues and build stronger support bases.  Women party leaders along with their party, or an all-women shadow cabinet composed of CSO members, could inform on the impact of the controversial solutions especially on women and children.  The parties could at the same time look into attracting talent and training young cadres to adapt and spread party positions and principles.

I am not a party person myself but I would like for parties to be fully functioning.  I am an elections person, and I would like to see competitive elections; and if parties offer good and competent candidates, voters will always "win", whichever way they vote. What do you think?

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Namfrel pre-election assessment report

Access the full report at: 

Assessment Summary

"At the time of this report there will be 35 days left to the May 9 presidential and general elections. If the current opinion polls hold, the elections for president and vice president may produce close results."

PEAM was pleased to hear that there is a good level of confidence in the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) among stakeholders. COMELEC has a particular challenge relating to the issuing of voters’ receipts. Voters want a sense of confidence that their votes will be counted as cast. Another issue relates to the timely and transparent reporting of vote totals. Swift and accurate reporting is essential, especially due to past experiences.

Free, fair, inclusive and credible elections depend also on a permissive environment, and we have heard concerns expressed about vote buying and private armed groups impeding access to polling centres.

In the event of close elections, it will be important for all stakeholders to respond in a measured way, and for COMELEC to be prepared to provide a clear narrative surrounding the conduct of the polls and the publication of results.

In addition to issues related to the present elections, this assessment also suggests a national dialogue concerning possible desynchronization of national and local elections, and the possibility of run-off elections to ensure future presidents and vice presidents have a strong mandate.

There is also work to be done to improve the access to their franchise of indigenous people, people with disabilities, and overseas Filipinos."

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

(First) The true mandate of the Commission on Elections (COMELEC)... to hold competitive elections and create the environment for it.

All data from the Comelec except for gender, which were
determined based on the name. 
There are other measures but at its simplest, competitive elections mean that there is more than one candidate for an elective post. For the elections this May in the National Capital Region (NCR),  955 candidates are vying for 336 elective posts. 

These figures help explain how participative
 are the elections for local positions in the NCR.
This highly urbanized region and home to 6.25 million voters has 17 towns and cities.  It is broken down into 42 districts from which councilors are elected. A town or city has from two to six councilor districts depending on the population.  There are also 30 congressional districts within the NCR.

On voting day on May 9, voters in the NCR will choose one mayor and one vice-mayor, between six and eight councilors, and one member of congress or parliament.

Twenty-seven parties are competing in the NCR.

However, my take on competitiveness revolve around the data from  the table below.  Obviously, questions begged to be asked.

1.  Why are voters not presented with at least one other candidate to choose from?  Why did not parties compete?  Did the voters agree that no other candidate could represent them?

2.  What led candidates and voters to "capture" or game the system?
3.  What local political and electoral conditions could explain this situation?
4.  If at all, how might the cost of becoming a candidate or the cost of getting elected contribute in the explanation?
5.  What might prevent this situation from happening?

I will bring up more points in the upcoming posts, but for now a few future possible remedies:

1.  National parties should explain in writing to the voters, through the Comelec, why they could not field candidates in places where candidates are unopposed.  They should cite in detail the constraints they faced?
2.  In an unopposed situation, the candidate should at least get 50 percent of the valid votes in order to be elected.  If not, a re-election.

What's your take?