Lay of the land and the stubbornly indecisive

THE lay of the land is such that the independents seem to be dictating the shape of things for the Aquino administration come 2016. One would notice the offensive of the independents in the news cycle over the weekend, hugging the news and going on overdrive so it dictates the pace at the start of the week. Denials are made during the days going to the weekend, thereby creating a buzz. Even the so-called Third Force is gaining imagined strength when a major broadsheet decided to make it news and do a front-page shout out, “powerful 3rd Force shaping up.”

 

THE lay of the land is such that the independents seem to be dictating the shape of things for the Aquino administration come 2016. One would notice the offensive of the independents in the news cycle over the weekend, hugging the news and going on overdrive so it dictates the pace at the start of the week. Denials are made during the days going to the weekend, thereby creating a buzz. Even the so-called Third Force is gaining imagined strength when a major broadsheet decided to make it news and do a front-page shout out, “powerful 3rd Force shaping up.”

The Third Force has meaning in the sense of British and Canadian politics, not Manila. Third force does not necessarily shape the Anthony Giddens’ Third Way adopted and advocated by former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and to a certain degree, by American president Bill Clinton. That it is still shaping is speculative but powerful is declarative and we know it is false. So which is which? How can it be powerful? Third Force has been tried several times in the Philippines and nothing happened from it because there is no money, no party, no local support and platform does not even echo Giddens’ “life politics” (the politics of self-actualisation) may become more visible than “emancipatory politics” (the politics of inequality); that new social movements may lead to more social change than political parties; and that the reflexive project of the self and changes in gender and sexual relations may lead the way, via the “democratisation of democracy”, to a new era of Habermasian “dialogic democracy” in which differences are settled, and practices ordered, through discourse rather than violence or the commands of authority.” When a major daily becomes the propaganda machine of independents, you truly wonder what has happened to Philippine media.

Should BSA3 continue courting the so-called independents who, over the weekend, said they do not need endorsement from the incumbent? The president looks stupid in this latest media slant that the independents are doing. The Liberal Party must be livid by now. If not, then there is something wrong somewhere. But then again, they keep on running after the independents giving the two more perceived strength and bargaining power to the detriment of the party in government. The stubbornly indecisive will have to be reminded that the resources and machineries are with them.

The dinner diplomacy has to stop because it does not serve our politics any better. One man cannot replace the decision of an incumbent party if membership truly matters. The concept of shared responsibility of a political party is vital in choosing its candidates. An open convention as mandated by the Election Code is crucial. If this is how LP will decide on its bets come 2016, the buzz of splintering up may be real.

Last week, Majority Floor Leader Boyet Gonzales rightfully pointed out the “continued waffling would only serve to boost Binay’s chances, especially if Roxas and Poe end up running against each other.”

In campaign politics, there are two types of voters: command and market. Command is the strong/hard support base. They will remain with a candidate despite everything thrown at him or her. Who among the candidates have command? Those who served the local governments and went up the political ladder: Binay, Duterte and Marcos. Those who ran for president before and have remained in national politics: Lacson.

Who have lost their base or has a very diluted base? Roxas appears to have lost his base from the 40% in 2004 and around the same percentage in 2010, to a single digit in the first dipstick for 2016. Poe is a different candidate altogether because the results of her votes in 2013 showed that she was assisted a lot by command votes of bailiwicks of key national politicians. Besides, the Senate is one of twelve, unlike the presidency.

Market votes on the other hand, are the votes a candidate secures because of the campaign. So much depends on harvest areas, strategies on the ground and on air (frequency and reach), implementation of the campaign plan, voter protection and GOTV.

Hence, if five candidates (Binay, Poe, Roxas, Duterte and Marcos) or six (to include Lacson) throw their hats in the presidential arena, the solid support of Binay at 20%, and if he is able to hold on to that, could be the determining factor in his victory come 2016. Let us see the numbers.

If we then do the math, there were 52,006,910 voters in 2013. Lets take a conservative voter turnout on a presidential election at 80%, that means 41,605,528 voters will vote in 2016. Binay’s hard support base is equivalent already to 8,321,105. If Binay is able to recover the lost 10% of his original strong support of 30%, that is equivalent to 12,481,658 votes, which is 4 million shy of 16 Million to win the presidency. Since there are four or five anti-Binay candidates, we will end up having a plurality come 2016 and the results of the four or five, together would be greater than the plurality of Binay. Consequently, the more candidates in the presidential derby for 2016, the easier for Binay to put together his plurality and win.

A one-on-one changes the lay of the land. And that is probably what the president had in mind, the need for a common candidate for the administration. But a one-on-one is easier said than done. How would BSA3 convince a Duterte or a Lacson today? Both are carrying defined issues only associated to them. If BSA3 fails in getting the independents to follow his plan, why would strong personas like Duterte and Lacson do so? Of course, a Marcos is totally different for BSA3. And a late September announcement could put in disarray all the best-laid plans. As it is, things are too fluid to call.

Indeed, “every great political campaign rewrites the rules; devising a new way to win is what gives campaigns a comparative advantage against their foes.” Being popular is a good investment, how to convert such to votes is the most crucial thing a candidate has to put together and being too focused on horse races now will give one blinders in the most crucial stretch – the 90 day campaign period.

 

Published in Manila Times on July 20, 2015:  http://www.manilatimes.net/lay-of-the-land-and-the-stubbornly-indecisive/202040/

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About the Author
Malou Tiqiua is the Founder/General Manager of PUBLiCUS Asia Inc. A noted political management expert in the Philippines and Asia, she brings over 20 years of professional experience in public, private and the academe combined. Author of the comprehensive book on electoral campaigns in the Philippines, "Campaign Politics", Malou is a graduate of the University of the Philippines with a Political Science degree and a Master of Public Administration. She completed her second master's degree (MA in Political Management) from the Graduate School of Political Management, George Washington University.
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