Which New Power Arrangements in the Philippines?

Partyforumseasia:    With the high voter turnout of 81.62 percent, president-elect Duterte’s landslide lead was so clear that his victory could be announced long before all votes had been properly counted. The very successful electronic vote counting system left no doubts only 17 hours after the polling stations closed when already 95 percent of the results were available to the Election Commission (Comelec). Technically and organizationally, this is an admirable success story. Runners up Mar Roxas and Grace Poe gracefully conceded defeat immediately and congratulated Duterte.

Leni R

Vice president elect Leni Robredo

The race for the vice-presidency, which is a separate election in the Philippines, not a running mate solution like in other presidential systems, turned out to be a more complicated story. Only on Friday, May 20th, at 7 p.m., eleven days after the election, the paper thin lead of Leni Robredo was finally confirmed by the Comelec. She won over Ferdinand Marcos, eldest son of the infamous dictator with the same name, with just 263,473 votes. This is a mere .92 percent of all 28.57 million valid votes, but clear enough. With some local results contested or coming in late from remote islands, the lead was sometimes attributed to Marcos and sometimes to Robredo. She can now smile, first for herself and her victory, but also for possibly keeping open a door into the new government for her party, the Liberal Party of the Philippines (LP).

President-elect Duterte, who will take over from president Aquino end of June, had offered her a post in his cabinet but changed his mind already. He may have preferred Marcos. Duterte is considered to be a social democrat and open to the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), to which he has offered four cabinet portfolios, namely agrarian reform, social welfare, environment and natural resources, and labor. “Thanking his former student for the “magnanimous offer,” exiled CPP founding chair Jose Maria Sison politely declined the cabinet positions, clarifying, however, that the offer would be studied seriously.” (Philippine Daily Inquirer, May 21st, 2016, LINK).
A government with Socialists and Communists would be quite a game changer in the Philippines and threaten the cozy power arrangements of the elites and the traditional politicians called “trapos“. Duterte himself is backed by his party Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan or PDP Laban with now 82 out of 292 seats in the House of Representatives.PDP-Laban_logoThey have already signed a coalition agreement with the conservative Nacionalista Party (20 MP’s and 5 senators), the center right National Unity Party (24 MP’s) and the conservative Nationalist People’s Coalition (36 Mp’s and 2 senators). Altogether 162 members of Parliament will give Duterte already a comfortable majority of 55 percent, but the opportunistic political tradition will certainly see more elected members switch into the presidential camp.
A big question is now whether Leni Robredo as vice president will open a door for her Liberal Party which, otherwise, would lose all the jobs in government and administration it held during the six Aquino years. In terms of ideology and compatibility it might look awkward to coalesce with Socialists and Communists, but since at the end ideology is not that important, not in the Philippines and no longer in Western democracies, a flexible solution will be found. May it help the country  to catch up and improve the living conditions of the neglected part of the 100 million Phillipinos.

Philippines Political History

A timeline of the country’s governments since 1945 (The Economist)


The Presidential Systems in Indonesia and the Philippines Work Differently

Partyforumseasia: President Joko Widodo of Indonesia is not yet in full control of the political machinery 19 months after assuming office in October 2014. If the election of Setya Novanto as new chairman of Golkar, the second largest party, will end the

Indo Parl

The newest figures by Wikipedia

internal rivalries and the party joins the presidential coalition, the President will control over 60 % of the parliament. But control may be exaggerated as description, as the coalition, see the colorful chart on the left, consists of seven parties,with Golkar already included by Wikipedia after the party convention in Bali last weekend. Running a country as diverse as Indonesia without a majority in parliament is certainly extremely difficult but maybe facilitated by the flexible nature of Indonesians and the very wide range of gray tones between black and white compared to the normal confrontations in Western democracies. The support of Golkar will help President Widodo to push more forcefully for stalled but necessary reforms. But it will remain a daunting task to balance the government coalition and satisfy all party leaders and dignitaries with sufficiently powerful (and profitable) posts and positions in government and public service.

In the Philippines the post-election political situation looks very different. The country of over 100 million citizens, with a median age of 24.4 years, and still a high poverty rate of 26%, has not developed a strong party system. During the political developments after the fall of Marcos and the “People Power or Edsa Revolution” in 1986, the Philippines have in many ways managed to strengthen their democratic institutions albeit with a weakness of enforcement in important details. With 70 % of legislators coming from political clans and thriving on oligarchic and partially even violent patron-client relationships, the 55 million voters were tired of elite politics and provided maverick candidate Rodrigo Duterte with a handsome majority of 38.6% over the runner up establishment candidate Mar Roxas with 23.45%. The latter’s running mate, Leni Robredo, is still waiting for the final and official results because her lead over “Bongbong” Ferdinand Marcos, eldest son of the late dictator, is paper thin. In case her victory is confirmed, Duterte will give her a cabinet post.

President-elect Duterte has pushed his campaign with a very tough image after two decades as mayor of Davao and plenty of tough talking and promises to clean up with corruption and crime. Elite candidate Mar Roxas, whose grandfather was a president, has graciously conceded defeat and congratulated the winner, but establishment and intellectuals are anything but happy with the outcome. Duterte may manage to cut painfully into their privileges and redistribute the benefits of the country’s economic growth under the Aquino administration to the poorer parts of the society.
As usual in the Philippines, after the president is elected politicians move into his or her camp irrespective of party affiliation. Duterte is holding court in his Davao home and the friends, old and new, queue up to get appointed for positions from minister to ambassador.
Expectations among Duterte’s voters are sky high, but there is also a herculean task ahead. Despite economic progress under Aquino the poverty level is still the second highest in Southeast Asia.
Poverty levels in SEA

The organization of the elections on 9 May has worked remarkably well given the geographical challenges of the 7000 islands nation. On top of the election of president  and vice president, the voters had to decide on12 Senate seats, all 297 seats to the House of Representatives, all governors, vice governors, and 772 seats to the boards of the 81 provinces, all mayors and vice mayors for 145 cities and 1,489 municipalities, all members of the city councils and 11,924 seats on municipal councils, as well as the governor, vice governor and all 24 seats in the regional assembly of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

vote machine

The electronic voting machines are supposed to be hack- and cheat-proof

As the largest electronic vote counting exercise in history with 92,509 vote counting machines being used to digitize voter-marked ballots and transmit the results to the Municipal Board of Canvassers, the 2016 election is an incredible achievement which is not adequately appreciated by the international media, probably too much overshadowed by the victory of Rodrigo Duterte.

Establishment In Panic: Will “President” Duterte End The Golden Rule?

Partiforumseasia: According to traditional political wisdom and experience in the Philippines, the real meaning of the Golden Rule is the rule of those who have the gold.
In this presidential election, however, there are candidates outside the plutocratic establishment. And if the polls are sufficiently reliable, one anti-establishment candidate has a good chance of being elected: DuterteRodrigo Duterte (nickname “Digong“) is so popular because of his cleaner but more brutal law and order policies as mayor of Davao city, including a huge number of extrajudicial killings of criminals. The contrast to the ruling Liberal Party’s candidate, Mar Roxas, could not be bigger. Roxas is a cultivated, well traveled intellectual politician from the quasi aristocratic upper class and successful minister in Aquino’s outgoing cabinet. In the latest polls Roxas stands at 20 % behind Grace Poe with 22% and Duterte with 33%! Duterte seems to be totally eligible for the poor masses and big parts of the middle class as well, who are already soul searching before the election on 9th May. Imelda Deinla from the Australian National University sees the failure of the elites to establish a minimum level of the rule of law and to reduce the rampant corruption and inefficiency of the civil service. See her comment “Rule of law deficit behind voter dismay in Philippines” (LINK) in the East Asia Forum. Narciso Reyes Jr., a former journalist and diplomat, has a deeper psychological analysis of the voters and the darker side of their hopes and aspirations. Here is short passage of his article in the 4th May Inquirer (LINK):

“Duterte’s incredible popularity, despite his crude blunders (…) is evidently being fueled by an atavistic, primal instinct among our people who crave order and a better life under the strong arm of a man with a seeming license to kill.”

The elite is in panic mode! The latest move, supported by President Aquino, is warning against a Duterte dictatorship and urging the candidates Mar Roxas and Grace Poe to join forces in order to prevent Duterte…

On a different level, but rather interesting is a comparison with the US presidential campaign. A frightened elite is exploring ways to prevent Donald Trump, who has money himself and will attract more donations now. Duterte is probably not that rich but will not be short of funding either. According to media estimations presidential campaigns in the Philippines cost between 2,5 and 3 billion pesos (or 53 to 65 m US$), and 80% of it going into political ads. Nielsen Media reported that even before the official campaign period started on 9 February, 7.5 billion pesos (nearly 160 m US$) had already been spent for ads of all kinds. But the media campaign is being dwarfed by the carnival atmosphere in the streets when the candidates show up in person. Being the most important crossroads decision in the country’s politics, the 55 million voters in the Philippines are politicized on a high voltage level. When the counting works well, the country is running the elections technically quite professionally, we will see the result within a few days.