Philippine Elections: The Promise of Democracy
April 7, 2010
In the Pulse Asia polls released this week in Manila, the presidential front-runner, Senator Noynoy Aquino, increased his lead over his closest competitor, Senator Manny Villar, in what still appears to be a two-horse race. Aquino now has a 12-point lead over Villar, who dropped a point in the latest poll. Aquino has 37 percent to Villar’s 25 percent.
In the vice presidential race, Senator Mar Roxas has taken a commanding lead of 20 points over his closest rival, Loren Legarda, with 45 percent to 25 percent.
Now that local officials have begun their campaigns—at the provincial, mayoral, and barangay (or village) level—the question is whether Villar’s reportedly stronger nationwide campaign machinery will help him close the gap with Aquino. Or will voters retain their earlier commitment to the idea of a return to an Aquino leading the country, with all of the symbolism and expectations highlighted by the passing of the Senator Aquino’s mother, former president Cory Aquino?
A key factor is the consistent polling numbers of former president Joseph “Erap” Estrada. He had 19 percent support in the latest poll and since entering the race has not gone below 15 percent. It is believed that if Estrada remains in the race, he could pull votes from the rural and urban poor—in Philippine political patois “the D&E classes.” But if he threw his support behind either candidate, it appears at this point that he could have a decisive impact on the election.
Campaign observers and analysts in Manila have also expressed concern that the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) plans to run an automated—or computerized—election for the first time. There are fears that the system is not fully tested and ready and that with new machines in what may be inadequate numbers, not all voters will get to cast their votes in time on election day. Others fear that a computerized vote-counting system could be manipulated.
The May 10 election is an important opportunity for the Philippines to emphasize one of its key competitive advantages—a democratic government. By allowing the Philippine people to choose their next leader, the country will empower its most vital natural resource—the creativity and ingenuity of its citizens. Let’s hope the race is well fought and won by the candidate receiving the most votes. The candidates who lose should support the new president and move on to support the country’s national interest.
Ernest Z. Bower is a senior adviser and director of the Southeast Asia Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C.
Commentaries are produced by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a private, tax-exempt institution focusing on international public policy issues. Its research is nonpartisan and nonproprietary. CSIS does not take specific policy positions. Accordingly, all views, positions, and conclusions expressed in this publication should be understood to be solely those of the author(s).
© 2010 by the Center for Strategic and International Studies. All rights reserved.