OPINION: Elections will always have winners and losers

Buddy Gomez

Posted at Apr 28 2016 01:01 AM

After binging and pigging out, whether the choice is booze or politics, hangover and indigestion become inevitable. Neither is ever fatal. Inconvenient, disconcerting, heartbreaking, demoralizing. Yes to all of the above and more, but these will all pass.

As if we did not know, in every contest there are winners, there are losers. In the current indulgence, because of our uncorrected constitutional inadequacies, the losers will overwhelmingly outnumber the winners. And the quirk is: immediately after the votes are counted, the President-elect will represent a mere third (or so) of the electorate.

A minority president is not a clear and outright winner. Not very democratic, isn’t it? But with the hope that soon after the inaugurals of the incoming administration, the Mister or Madame President is able to mend fences, cajole, seduce and coopt the greater number who did not vote for him, voila!--we have a majority President! An aberration corrected.

It might seem funny but such is the truth today. It breeds an unhealthy democracy, at least to me, as I remember my ABC’s of good government and citizenship. It is no longer what it was supposed to be.

As children in school when we were first exposed to civics, (classroom elections, for instance) we equated democracy with “majority rules.” “50% plus one,” used to be the gold standard of democratic elections. Acceptance of election results generally follows. A winner by mere plurality is not really a winner according to the “old normal.”

And what is the “new normal?” The 1987 Constitution that is, by way of introducing and promoting a multi-party system. Ironically, it was with the sincere intent of levelling the playing field, encouraging greater participation and enhancing the country’s democratic practices. But the now regularly recurring outcome of a President elected by mere plurality has instead become a formula for continuing divisiveness and dissension.

Unfortunately, the post-Martial Law Constitutional Commission failed to provide for a run-off mechanism that immediately corrects the anomaly of an election that does not produce a clear and outright winner. Incidentally, it is a mechanism that goes hand in hand in democracies, the world over, with a multiparty electoral participation. (Again, the Philippines comes out odd!)

A runoff election, by constitutional mandate, occurs in order to produce an uncontestable winner in the earlier election that did not produce a “50% plus one” winner. This subsequent and final election is between the number 1 and the number 2, the two leading candidates. With such a scenario, it is inevitable that realignments and horse-trading perforce eventuate. That is the essence of politics. Accommodation. The art of the possible. Thus, by virtue of a runoff, a majority winner emerges before he/she is inaugurated. Not after.

Confused? Let me attempt to recall and paraphrase what the great Winston Churchill is quoted to have uttered: ”Democracy is the worst form of government…..except for all those that have been tried…..”

After the May 9 elections, it will have become only too apparent, regardless of who the victor is, that the Constitution is ready for serious remedial tweaking.

SOME STRAY THOUGHTS...

The candidate we pick for the Presidency on May 9 will be a reflection of the color of our respective values as Filipinos. Human disposition, loyalties, emotions, perceptions and ignorance are never uniform but these elements do shape and sharpen our values. Taken all together, we all represent the nation. A diverse nation but hopefully not impervious to conquering the divisiveness that the season has engendered.

As pointed out earlier, when the ballots are tallied and by reason of the prevailing arithmetic, mere plurality will dominate. The new President therefore commences his incumbency not representing the collective values of the nation. Such is the burden.

Depending on one’s values, the voter’s choice will be one of the following: “a crook and a liar, a womanizing killer with a dirty mouth, a shallow opportunist” or perhaps, even the lackluster best qualified beset by accusations of incompetence, much demonized by media.

CHARACTER SIGNS

It is not unreasonable to conclude that the campaign staff, managers, handlers, advisers, consultants and hangers-on of the Presidential candidates will in all likelihood populate the talent pool of potential recruits and appointees in an incoming administration of the victorious candidate. This has been the unchanging pattern of rewards and compensation. The pay-off, the settling of political debts.

Therefore, the character and the quality of an incoming administration can already, really be gleaned from behavior exhibited by these individuals during the campaign. I speak of mainly the tactics, ruses and subterfuges, the underhandedness, deception, the meanness and dishonesty employed and utilized in the relentless pursuit of campaign advantage. One such candidate stands out most prominently.

CALL FOR SOBRIETY

Sobriety has to follow bouts of intoxicating activity if we must continue to function as a nation and as individuals. Election fever will be subsiding soon. It is time to regain sanity that has been allowed let loose. Oftentimes, an episode of drunken stupor provides a lesson worth learning.

An object lesson in politics: Victory and defeat in electoral contests are facets of democratic maturity, best manifested by winners not gloating and losers not despairing. In this May 9, 2016 elections, the victorious must accept the reality that he or she will commence a Presidential incumbency that is unwanted by some two-thirds of the nation whose votes went elsewhere. That ought to be sobering enough.

(Disclaimer: The views of the author are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.)

Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.