We woke up the past few days amidst a flurry of ill-disguised election-related initiatives. This early, the catchwords are dizzying: “change politics,” “reform agenda,” “Ako Mismo,” “Kaya Natin,” etc. There is a similarity to all of these–the “change” theme. Of course, if it seems familiar, it’s because of the kinship to the successful Obama slogans.
In the Philippine context, these catchwords are designed to appeal to the strong anti-traditional politician (trapo) sentiments that has been growing. It simply means to throw out the traditional politics and usher in…what? Change, reforms, people’s empowerment? Or, more likely, a “new” candidate.
For all their seemingly laudable intentions, these movements will have to contend–at the end–with the electoral imperative. That is, to vote in a presidential candidate come election day. Ironically, this is where the strategy falls apart. Or–another way of saying it–that is where the real strategy is revealed.
To be sure, there is a strong (and getting stronger) reform constituency. However, this constituency does not yet constitute a movement nor–a much higher target–does it jell into a political party. The constituency does have a focus–an anti-GMA focus. This is the reason why, if GMA remains in power in 2010, she will easily become the number one issue that will define the political terrain for presidential post contestation.
If she actively pursue (or even publicly perceived) supporting a presidential candidate, that candidate will face the almost impossible task of defending her administration’s record. A unified opposition candidate can easily win. Even in a three-cornered fight, any one of the two opposition candidates will win.
Beyond GMA, the focus is lost in the welter of the issues facing the electorate. Then, it’s every candidate for himself or herself.
But change, by itself, cannot define the constituency needed for a successful change candidate. A change strategy, by itself, will not produce the critical mass. At this point, it’s more of a slogan than a strategy to get a slice of the reform constituency in addition to what is otherwise the traditional political constituency.
Of course, the main strategy is still the various negotiations going on right now at all levels to gather the political capital needed for a serious presidential bid. This is the real context of the change electoral strategy.