Coalition and Party Politics

The difference between coalition and political parties in the Philippine Elections.

There are 62 candidates vying for 12 seats in the Senate. Both the administration and opposition camps, however, have brought together candidates from different parties for their respective senatorial slates.

Coalition politics has never been this complicated as before, with the administration putting together four different senatorial slates (i.e. PDP-Laban, Du It Pilipinas, Hugpong ng Pagbabago National Slate, Hugpong ng Pagbabago Davao Region Slate) and the opposition having two different senatorial slates (i.e. Otso Diretso, Makabayan Bloc). These various configurations leave voters wondering what binds candidates and political parties together in a coalition.

By definition, a coalition is “a temporary union between two or more groups, especially political parties, for the purpose of gaining more influence or power than the individual groups or parties can hope to achieve on their own.” Coalitions are typically built to consolidate power and resources during an election. However, the configuration of coalitions often changes at the conclusion of an electoral cycle.

Currently, Philippine political coalitions can be generally classified into two: pro-administration or anti- administration. Unlike political parties, however, our coalitions do not have a unified political platform of governance. In fact, individual candidates within a coalition may have different political platforms and conflicting positions on a single issue (i.e. Martial Law).

While the formation of coalitions is normal during elections, coalitions cannot be held fully accountable unlike political parties. Political parties, by design, are ideology-based, member-based, programmatic, and regularly operate. The rampant practice of building coalitions during Philippine Election season has diminished the value of political parties. Today, political parties have been reduced to nothing more than organizations led by prominent political or entertainment figures.

People remain skeptical on joining political parties given the absence of sufficient information on their long-term value in terms of interest articulation and aggregation in governance.

Below are some notable differences between genuine political parties and Philippine political coalitions:

• In coalitions, ordinary people are just spectators and fans. In political parties, ordinary people can become members and leaders.
• Coalitions are only able to offer general plans for the country, which are typically motherhood. On the other hand, political parties have consensus-based platforms of government broken down into issues, sectors and agencies.
• Coalitions are designed to be temporary and generally collapse after elections. Meanwhile, political parties are organized to operate before, during and after elections.

Due to the highly personalistic nature of Philippine Elections, voters typically do not put premium on the candidates’ behavior of switching parties or being topsy-turvy with their positions on critical issues. In the first place, political parties have the ability to weed out incompetent candidates from within their ranks to provide voters with worthy choices during an election. On the other hand, candidates in coalitions are usually handpicked based primarily on winnability.

Come May 13 2019, we will be selecting a set of 12 new senators for the 18th Congress. Provided with the current configuration of political coalitions in this electoral cycle, will you vote straight for a particular administration/opposite slate or choose a hybrid between administration, opposition and independent candidates?

Keep in mind though that political coalitions are not meant to last forever.

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Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of TheLOBBYiST.
About the Author
Mr. Aaron Benedict De Leon is currently a Business Development Practitioner in a private consulting firm. He has more than six years of professional experience in leading and managing political and non-government organizations, specializing in organizational management, policy development and program management. He has had stints with notable political/socio-civic organizations, serving in various capacities as: Secretary-General of the Centrist Democratic Party of the Philippines (CDP) [2013-2015], Founding Chairperson of the Centrist Democratic Youth Association of the Philippines (CDYAP) [2012-2014], Philippine Representative to the International Young Democrat Union (IYDU) [2011-2012], Chairperson of the Christian Democratic Youth [2011-2012], Secretary-General of YOUTH Philippines [2010-2011], and Spokesperson/Communications Director of the GT2010 Gilbert Teodoro Presidential Campaign [2009-2010].
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