Upcoming Philippine Elections: Three Critical Things To Watch

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On May 10, 2010, the Philippines will be conducting nationwide elections where voters will  be choosing a new president and vice president, members of the national Congress, and some 17,000 local executive and legislative positions. Despite all the political pundits, I believe there are three critical things that people need to watch and pay attention:

1. Malfunction of the automated voting process might lead to post election violence. In fact, the malfunction already happened! (Digital Journal May 5, 2010)  Mock elections were held in various pilot areas and many of the precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines failed to count votes correctly and its continued malfunction on election day might lead to mass confusion and post election violence.

Barclays Capital estimated a 10 percent chance of election failure, 30 percent chance of a smooth election, and 60 percent chance of a “bumpy ride” which sees some delays and unrest but eventually produces a credible result.Many fear that that machine malfunctions or large numbers of invalid ballots will result in post-election disputes and violence.

If the automated polls fails, Reuters International predicts a worst case scenario  that the unpopular President Arroyo, could use civil unrest to impose military rule and try to extend her stay in power. Rumors have also swirled of a military takeover if it all fails. Let’s all hope that the automated polls do work!

2. No clear winner might also lead to post-election violence. Current voter polls vary so widely and without a clear winner might also lead to violence after the elections.

The son of revered former President Corazon “Cory” Aquino, Senator Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino, has built a double-digit lead in opinion polls just a few days ahead of balloting. His lead has widened, with billionaire lawmaker Manuel “Manny” Villar’s support dropping 5 points in the latest opinion poll.  However, Former President Joseph Estrada’s support has steadily risen, catching up with Villar to tie at second place (Reuters International).

Let’s all hope that there will be a clear winner to avoid any post-election contests that could lead to violence.

3. Election winners do not have all the answers to all the country’s problems. Many voters are optimistic and pinning their hopes to their candidates to solve the country’s litany of woes.  I don’t think they have all the answers and that change will not happen overnight. The answer lies in its citizens’ continued democratic participation.

Real change will only happen if its citizens, in the Philippines and in the diaspora will continue to be politically active, participate and advocate. Democracy is not a spectator sport. Many people think that you vote once, then you sit back and see what happens. A fair and democratic election is a good first step. The real work of democracy happens afterward.

About daleasis

President of the Bayanihan Foundation Worldwide
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