Presidential race still fluid, analyst says

By Caroline J. Howard, ANC

Posted at Apr 21 2010 07:24 AM | Updated as of Apr 21 2010 06:38 PM

End-game strategies seen to affect outcome

MANILA, Philippines - With just less than a month left before the May 10 elections, the outcome of the presidential campaign can still be anyone's ballgame.

Speaking on ANC's "The Rundown" on Tuesday night, political analysts weighed-in on what will be a deal-breaker for candidates in the last three weeks before the polls.
While surveys tout the presidential campaign to be a 3-way race among Liberal Party standard-bearer Noynoy Aquino, Nacionalista Party's Manny Villar and Pwersa ng Masa's Joseph Estrada (Aquino's figures are consistent at 37%, owing partly to the dip in Villar's ratings, what has further strengthened Estrada's loyal support base), political strategist and management expert Malou Tiquia believes the race is more dynamic. 
Lakas-Kampi-CMD's Gilberto Teodoro, Bagumbayan's Richard Gordon, and Bangon Pilipinas' Eddie Villanueva are still very much in it, she says.

Elections still fluid
"I would say it's a 5-man race. If elections were held today, Noynoy will win. But there's so much going into the end game, which can be defined as a momentum or a meltdown depending on the organizational strength of each candidate," Tiquia says.
She, however, points out the administration candidate has yet to be defined.
"It appears there are different shades of administration candidates that are running. Some are influenced directly, some indirectly assisted.  The influence is negated simply because of the perception her trust rating is very low.  Because of that, the kiss of death label has been bandied around but, in the end, I think you need an engaged Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to ensure the transition is going to be good for this country," Tiquia says.

The Arroyo factor

Already, UP political science Prof. Clarita Carlos points out the country has an incumbent president who figures prominently in recent state of affairs.
"You have a president who is end of term but is engaged in every step of the way, from the appointment of the AFP Chief of Staff, to the Supreme Court Chief Justice, the release of IRA [Internal Revenue Allotment] and PDAF (pork barrel).  This is a president who is engaged, who knows her politics and can ensure the House of Representatives is going to be a place of her speakership fight in the 15th Congress," she says. 
Aside from President Arroyo, Carlos adds, Congress may just be as critical in determing what happens after the polls, possibly even a shift to a parliamentary form of government. 

She points out how Lakas-Kampi-CMD appears to be focusing its resources on funding congressional leaders rather than the campaign of its standard-bearer and vice-presidential candidate Edu Manzano. 
"Its not surprising these two candidates are complaining. All their money will go to members of Congress who will more likely be elected," Carlos says.

"The end game is to constitute Congress with Arroyo supporters. The fact that money is pouring in support of members of congress is a strategic stroke of the president. It can make charter change, it can elect a speaker."

The deal breaker

Given the newness of the automation process, Tiquia says parties need to double up their efforts as the automated elections will be an "organizational end game". 
"A candidate who trained his base will probably get votes counted in his favor than those who just campaigned," she says.
The race is fluid, Tiquia says, and how the presidential campaign is played could still spell the difference in the polls. She cites the pressure of dirty politics.
"Propaganda materials could cut the wings of some candidates, leave them unable to answer back with 19 days to go," she adds.    
While Carlos and Tiquia believe a failure of election scenario is remote since Filipinos want to see the results of the automated polls, Tiquia says problems may come in the lead up to the proclamation of winners by a largely pro-administration Congress.