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Wanted: An alternative political movement

"Crazy? No. Doable? Yes."

 


In just three months, the Filipino electorate will again troop to the polls for the midterm elections. Historically, less voters exercise their right to suffrage during midterms. I have heard people say that it is less important than presidential elections. People tend to think that if the presidency is not at stake, then the elections are less crucial.

I disagree. Let us look at the coming elections in terms of numbers. Except for the positions of President, Vice President, and twelve (12) Senators, all other elective positions are at stake. ONLY 14 of the tens of thousands of positions will not be affected by midterm elections. Thus, the coming elections cannot be less important because the people we will elect will determine the trajectory of our country.

Will the country continue to take the course this administration is pushing us to? The answer depends not only on the President, the Vice President, and the twelve Senators whose terms are not ending this year, but also on the new set of public officials that people will vote into position.

Actually, theoretically, something akin to a revolution is possible through the midterm elections. In critical times when encompassing change is needed, like, when graft and corruption is rampant, replacing most of those in position may be achieved through elections. Or, the midterms may also be used to thwart creeping authoritarianism, or even impending charter change, again, theoretically speaking.

After all, if only 14 elected officials remain even if these include the President and Vice President, their machinations can easily be stopped by the big majority of other newly elected public servants.

Does this sound crazy? I say, no. Is this doable? I dare say yes. Just months before the first EDSA happened, it was hard to think that the Marcoses would be evicted from Malacañang Palace. But the people decided that they should go, and so EDSA came about. Nothing is impossible when the sovereign Filipino people so decide.

However, affecting change through elections, at a time when the sitting administration virtually controls all three branches of government, will not be easy. Certain important conditions must be met.

We need a politically enlightened and mature electorate. This means that voters will VOTE. This means that voters will scrutinize candidates and choose according to their capacities, integrity, track record, and platform of government, and not on popularity or “winnability. This also means that people are aware of the problems confronting the country, and are able to discern who among the candidates offer real solutions to these problems.

To effect change, we need a strong, pro-people opposition composed of individuals, groups, political parties bound by common principles, if not ideology. The groups in this kind of opposition should be willing to subsume their interests under the broader coalition. This kind of opposition must carry a program of government that truly addresses our problems both tactically and strategically. That is, it must have both short-term, and long-term solutions especially to problems that are systemic in nature.

Ideally, this kind of opposition should be able to field worthy candidates from the local to national levels. It should be able to present to the electorate real alternatives.

These two conditions are not easy to achieve especially during this time when it appears that the Duterte administration still has a strong hold on the masses. Most of our voters are unable to follow significant political issues, and still give more importance to personalities rather than substance. Too many are easily swayed by propaganda and star factor.

Massive and continuing voter education, and organizing campaigns are necessary but these will take time.

At present, sadly, we only have a motly, weak, and small opposition that cannot even field a complete slate of 12 senatorial candidates. Moreover, local machinery is wanting. The opposition is also missing out on presenting a cohesive platform of government which tells us that they are really eight separate candidates rather than a unified opposition.

To be fair to the opposition, their coming together is dictated more by necessity rather than a conscious decision to build and develop a real opposition coalition. Except for the Liberal Party candidates, most of the others do not come from operational political parties. Even the LP is significantly weakened after the former president finished his term.

Do not get me wrong. There are very good candidates in the opposition. Of those who have not been previously elected into office, the likes of Pilo Hilbay, Chel Diokno, and Samira Gutoc deserve to be in the Senate. But we know that it will be an uphill climb for the eight opposition candidates as evidenced by the most recent surveys.

Despite this, it will be best if our voters go for new blood and bring new faces in the Senate. There should be more capable and principled senators to balance Congress itself, and check the Executive through the Senate’s oversight function.

Whatever the results of the midterm elections might be, there is a need to embark on a big political project. That is, build real ideologically progressive political movements and parties from the ground up. This is not an impossible project. In fact, this was the formula used by many progressive countries in Europe.

This is the formula used a few parties here and we need more.

@bethangsioco on Twitter Elizabeth Angsioco on Facebook

Topics: Elizabeth Angsioco , political movement , midterm elections
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