When president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo made her pitch for Lakas-Kampi merger, she brought into full public view the festering sore spot in the ruling coalition. Theoretically, a merger would bring fresh strength to the aged coalition, bring her more leverage going into the negotiations for an eventual presidential candidate, and prevent the early demise of her presidency. In reality, it is a pipe dream that will only have–if ever–an appearance of succeeding only at the national level.
The situation on the ground in the 2010 national and local elections is one wherein, in many places, it is Lakas and Kampi political dynasts who are vying for elective positions, including scheming at electoral cheating and, in some cases, at electoral violence. It’s a dog-eat-dog world out there, in the absence of a strong political party system.
The only attraction a GMA-brokered merger brings to the table is the political weight the presidential endorsement carries, including the financial resources and government network that goes along with it. Many, if not most, of those in the ruling coalition will definitely need it and thus will be expected to echo the merger call.
However, such an attraction will have to be tempered with the sobering fact of a hugely unpopular president. Her endorsement of a candidate–in many places–is the sole factor for a great many voters to drop the candidate. It is a kiss of death in national electoral contests and in many local contests.
The GMA endorsement will matter only in those contest areas where her popularity is not an issue. Ironically, there it will not matter much. The money and the government resources from the presidential deepwell will be the major reason if ever a candidate in these areas accepts the endorsement.
The merger likewise will actually weaken both parties in the coalition when a spurned Lakas or Kampi member who wants to run under the merged coalition bolts out and run as an independent or under other parties. As I said before, party affiliation is based on the interests of the candidate-member, not the party.
GMA’s motive in calling for a merger obviously has everything to do with her political situation and nothing to do with the 2010 prospects of Lakas or Kampi. She needs to fend off as long as possible–at least in appearance–the lameduck character of her post-Cha-cha administration. She also needs the leverage to maintain her influence over her chosen presidentiable and ensure the candidate’s victory. A merged ruling coalition (or the appearance thereof) is crucial.
Whatever, the alignments for the 2010 elections are starting to be hammered down now. The merger buzz should be seen within this context. A non-merger.