The country faces a possible failure of elections on May 10 due to the inability of the Filipino elite to ensure a resolution to the political crisis through elections and the general incompetence of a corruption ridden, elite-controlled, weak state to conduct credible elections, above all one based on a fully automated voting system.
Only five days before the elections the major test run of the equipment has failed. In several precincts around the country, for example, votes cast for the opposition Liberal Party candidate Noynoy Aquino, were counted as votes for the candidate backed by the government party Lakas Kampi CMD’s (Christian Muslim Democrats), Gilbert Teodoro.
In one important aspect, i.e. the public trust in the electoral commission to conduct credible elections, the elections have already failed. People are extremely distrustful of the electoral commission and its credibility is virtually in tatters. The commission is suspected of being manipulated by the president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (known as GMA in the
The prospect of a failure of elections has unnerved the elite, including the elite opposition. Various elite factions have come up with a chaotic plethora of alternatives to save the system, ranging from the postponement of elections, to a full manual count of the votes.
Arroyo, one of the most unpopular presidents in Philippine history, has faced several impeachment attempts, the wrath of a mass movement that has persistently called for her ouster and several military mutinies by junior officer opposed to her government. She has survived this all, partly due to her ability to buy-off a majority in congress through her plunder of presidential resources, while the sullen anger of the masses against the government has grown. If she no longer controls government, she will face a number of corruption and plunder charges that will see her convicted and jailed, as was the case with the former president Estrada. Therefore there’s a very strong possibility that she will manipulate the election results to hold onto power indefinitely. This could include changing the constitution to install her as a Prime Minister, thereby extending her control of government and protecting the interests of the Arroyo political dynasty.
The failure of the May 10 elections could lead to the explosion of another political crisis. While Noynoy Aquino leading the ‘yellow forces’ has indicated his support for ‘peoples power’, there is also a question mark about the capacity of Noynoy Aquino and the Liberal Party to be able to mobilize peoples power. While Noynoy has substantial middle class support, Estrada who is the runner-up in the polls, continues to command significant support amongst the urban poor. Is there a possibility of a Noynoy-Estrada alliance? The political situation is chaotic and unpredictable. Anything seems to be a possibility at this stage.
Meanwhile election related violence continues with killings reported in various localities around the country. Many of the culprits of the Maguindanao massacre – the worst case of recent election related violence in the country in which 57 people including 32 journalists were massacred – were initially acquitted by the Justice Secretary of the Arroyo government, while one of the murderers continues to vacation in ‘jail’.
Mutinous groupings continue to exist in the military, several of them also supporting various factions of the elite. A right-wing option is also a real danger: a right-wing ‘Generals coup’, orchestrated by the ruthlessly Machiavellian Secretary of National Defense Norberto Gonzales.
Ultimately it’s the deep divisions amongst the elite that drive the political crisis. The left and the mass movement are still on the sidelines, monitoring the developments, but in reactive mode. If an election failure results in triggering the masses into action, this could break open the situation for the left. A major challenge for the left continues to be its ability to force open the divisions amongst the elite. Key to this is mobilising the masses for an anti-elite resolution to the crisis i.e. sustained, nationwide, mass protests drawing the urban poor, laboring masses and the middle-classes onto the streets. This needs to be based on calls that expose the true nature of the problem – the system of elite rule – and for a transitional government based on an alliance of the most consistent anti-Arroyo forces, which has as its main responsibility the clean up of the electoral and political system through fundamental reforms, before conducting credible elections.