Philippine elections: looking back and forward

Photo by Juan Tan Kwon

By Kim Knibbe One day after the elections, the consensus in the media is that everything went relatively smoothly. Noynoy Aquino, the son of the two ‘icons of democracy’ Ninoy Aquino, assassinated by Marcos, and Cory Aquino, who led the revolution that ousted Marcos, is leading by a wide margin. Nevertheless, there were many voting-machine failures, and many people had to wait in line so long that they went home without voting. In one town, the voting only ended at 5am in the morning. During election day, the reports were that in some districts the percentage of people going home without voting could go up to 50% of the registered voters in a district. Overall, it seem that because of the digitalization only 70% of the voters could be accommodated, if everything went well, instead of the expected 85% turnout for these elections.

This is a serious problem. Many of the losing candidates seem prepared to accept defeat rather than stir up doubts as to the validity of the elections. But some, like the mayoral candidate for Manila, are considering legally contesting the validity of the elections of, in this case, Manila. Cheating is still possible in these automated elections, until the last moments of counting. This could tip the balance of the perception of these elections to a more negative view, creating political instability in the process of handing over of power at all levels.

Vote-buying and intimidation also occurred, there were some shoot-outs, and in ten towns, a failure of election might be declared because officials did not turn up, machines  were demolished, and proceedings were messy. However, these things have always plagued elections in the Philippines. A sense of humour is necessary equipment in dealing with elections: one of the most popular news-items recently was a piece on ‘voter miseducation’.

The current president, Gloria Arroyo has pledged that she will ensure a smooth transition of power. It will be interesting to see how the popular Noynoy will handle his new power.

See the map of places in which people have reported election-related incidents.

Kim Knibbe is a post-doctoral researcher at the Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology of VU University Amsterdam. She regularly visits the Philippines. She wrote several earlier blogs on the Philippines.

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