Our country has witnessed countless national and local elections. Our people have elected many brilliant candidates. A lot of them had the best interests of the nation in mind when they started.
Of course, many undeserving winners also callously participated and took their oath of office although the common welfare of our citizens was farthest from their plans.
Every three years, our Constitution mandates that we endure the long lines and typically chaotic polling centers in order to cast our ballots with the silent hope that this electoral process will uplift the lives of our people and eventually catapult our country to the proud group of democratic and wealthy nations.
However, after so many elections, why are we still at the tail end of global economic progress. What always goes wrong that in spite of the individual competence, even excellence, of our elected officials, we still cannot achieve the level of economic strength that we are supposed to enjoy? As a country, we have already almost surrendered our much delayed goals of industrialization, global competitiveness, technological advancement, and diplomatic and military respectability.
WEAK MULTI-PARTY SYSTEM
Candidates win or loose on the basis of their individual qualifications, campaign machinery, and financial war chest. The political party that they belong to is not a decisive factor for victory or defeat. In fact, there is no distinct economic or political program that the majority of candidates represent. Hence, there is no sacred social contract that is forged between the candidates’ political parties and the people whom they court for votes.
There is no solid commitment on what economic platform shall be collectively pursued after winning the elections. Ultimately, there is no accountability to deliver any long-term and broad formula that will finally end the poverty and backwardness that afflict our nation.
CREATIVE MESSAGING VERSUS COMPREHENSIVE PROGRAMS
We cannot fully blame the candidates for resorting to simply adopting savvy marketing strategies that would capture the imagination of the voters and assure instant name recall. One liners and crisp messages are necessary substitutes for technically confusing advocacies and programs. In other words, candidates don’t need to seriously ride on party commitments because the electorate is not exactly demanding such commitments anyway.
After all, it’s a grand popularity contest that is hinged (whether true or not) on individual claims of integrity, track record, hard work, courage, and many other personal qualifications.
This further explains why the tolerated practice of politicians switching their party affiliation to that of the party in power is the usual aftermath of all our elections. Almost no one is beholden to uphold the party platform because there is not much of that in the first place.
DIFFICULT WAY FORWARD
If we honestly hope that our political system would deliver the much needed social and economic changes that we all wish for, then we will just be frustrated. Remember the old saying that expecting a different result from doing exactly the same thing is foolish. And we haven’t done this exercise only twice.
On June 30, the new leaders that were elected during the recent mid-term elections took their oath. Let’s try to convince many of them to introduce immediate political reforms such as making it difficult to switch party affiliations, demanding the publication of party programs, obliging public debates during campaign periods, ending the pork barrel system, re-engineering the dynamics of the party list in congress, and many more doable reforms while we are still debating on the bigger alternatives such as federalism, a parliamentary form of government, and overhauling the Constitution.
Let’s first see how our elected leaders transform our country within the limited space provided for by our current Constitution. Let’s still hope that we will be able to elect new leaders but in a new system of governance.
Ariel F. Nepomuceno is a management consultant on strategy and investment.