MANILA — Fewer voters are expected to participate in the upcoming midterm elections compared to the 2016 presidential polls, a watchdog said Saturday.
In a press conference, the National Citizens’ Movement for Free Elections (NAMFREL) said midterm polls, held every three years, generally suffer from low voter turnout due to the perception that it is "less important than the presidential elections held every six years."
"Mas mababa ang nakikitang turnout kasi nakikita ng iba na midterm elections lang ito. Parang [they] will ride through this wave, hindi na makikialam... Hindi nila nari-realize na mahalaga ang elections na ito," NAMFREL Secretary-General Eric Alvia said.
(We see a low voter turnout this coming polls because of other's perception that this is just the midterm elections. They don't realize that this election is also important.)
The May 2016 presidential polls that saw the election of President Rodrigo Duterte had a voter turnout of 81 percent.
Alvia explained that the midterm polls serve as a litmus test for challengers to know whether the incumbent is weak enough to be unseated.
"Marami na ang tumatakbo because they want to prepare for the certainty of the uncertain," he said.
Alvia also noted that the limited number of candidates to choose from has an effect on voter turnout.
"Inaantay na lang nila ang battle sa 2022,” Alvia said.
(Voters are just waiting for the 2022 presidential elections)
However, Legal Network for Truthful Elections (Lente) Executive Director Ona Caritos remains optimistic that voters will troop to polling precincts come election day since people have become more engaged since the 2016 polls.
"The proliferation of fake news as a source of information ay malaking problema talaga noong (was a big problem in) 2016. Pero hindi na gaano ngayon (But not as much now)... On election day, hopefully people will go out to vote," she said.
The midterm elections, where more than 18,000 positions are at stake, will take place on May 13, 2019.
—Reports from Bianca Dava, ABS-CBN News