2008 is a transition year. Well before 2010 comes, 2008 will have decided its fate.
This will be the year when a president makes her fateful decision to stay or to go, quietly or with a bang. This will be year when her opposition will decide whether to go for the jugular or to wait for the natural constitutional process to end an impasse. Lastly, this will be a year when people will decide where to place themselves–as benevolent political kibitzer, an interested observer on the sideline, or the patient democrat waiting to make history with their vote.
At any rate, 2008 promises to break the political stalemate of 2004. For good or bad of the existing democratic order, one cannot tell yet–options right now are so diverse that anything may seem possible. However, there are only several choices for key actors.
For the people in the GMA administration, the logical first choice will have to be an extension of her stay in power–by a constitutional change allowing the president a second term or a change to either a parliamentary system or a federal state (which would require a transition provision). This is not possible at this time without a prior effort to dislocate the opponents of a GMA constitutional change–a scenario requiring massive political and electoral manipulation as well as ensuring an undisputed control of the armed forces.
A second choice is the building of a viable presidential candidate without the negative association with GMA in time for the 2010 elections. As in the first choice, this will maintain the ruling coalition but necessitates an early distancing from GMA or–more difficult–the positive upturn of GMA’s popularity.
A variation of this that benefits Vice-President Noli de Castro is an early retirement for GMA that would put him in the presidential chair to push forward the ruling coalition’s eventual candidate. However, it is a given that whoever this candidate will be, he or she will be campaigning with a huge millstone around his or her neck because of the present administration’s unpopularity, especially if GMA is still around in 2010.
Failure to make the above choices will effectively dissolve the ruling coalition and create a free-for-all where the strong presidentiables raid the ranks of the coalition to augment their own electoral coalitions. This will be evident in the incoming year as serious contenders make their moves to create the critical mass for their candidacies.
Of course, it is still too early to pin down the serious presidentiables but all of the possible ones at this time are with the opposition or at least not identified with the GMA administration.
GMA, her administration, and the ruling coalition will be making the decision–one way or another–in 2008. Not doing so is already a decision as it will inexorably push them into the sidelines (and impotency) as political forces–including those in the ruling coalition–make their own decisions towards 2010.
The choice really is to go out quietly and with dignity or to go out either with a whimper or with a bang. The operative word is EXIT.