Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Survivor Politics; or, Writing Political Commentary Gets Silly when You're Battling Insomnia

Perhaps it was the fact that I’ve been reading up on health and fitness websites for the past 12 hours, but I haven’t been able to get Olivia Newton-John’s “Physical” out of my head. It’s become so pervasive that, as I was thinking of a title for this little rambling on next year’s presidential elections, the only real idea I had was to use “Let’s Get Political” (sung, of course, to the tune of the aforementioned pop song). I realize that it’s downright ridiculous to start off an entry about politics with a rather personal issue with an 80s pop song, but then again, that’s exactly what I think of our country’s current state of affairs.

I’m not the first to say that the state of politics in the Philippines is ridiculous, and I certainly won’t be the last, but all this talk about the elections had me thinking – just how many people are going to run for president next year? A little bit of research tells me that a whopping 18 individuals have expressed their intentions to run for office. Among those 18, only 6 have dropped out of the race. Am I the only one thinking how stupid it would be if things stayed the way they are come election time? Those are 12 names potentially on the ballot, each vying for a chance to be the leader of our nation.

Now color me idealistic, but how the heck are we supposed to pick a leader based on majority of the public opinion if the public’s opinion is divided 12 ways? If things stay the way they are, the eventual winner will probably claim the presidency with only 20% of the vote! Sure, that 20% may have had the majority of the votes, but is it really what most of us want? In terms of population size, and not the number of votes cast, 20% is a paltry amount. That’s like saying someone gets to be class president because 8 out of 40 people voted for him.

Of course, the number of candidates is bound to drop the closer we get to the elections, but the final number will likely still be too much to constitute a good vote. See, having too many candidates appears to be a part of our political culture. Since 1992, we’ve had an average of 7.33 presidential candidates over three elections, none of which has won by over 40% of the vote. Former President Ramos, in fact, won by only 23.6% (or, in classroom terms, around 9 students). Next year’s election will probably turn out like this – 6-9 candidates on the ballot, with the winner getting roughly 25-35% of the vote.

I, for one, think that’s really, really stupid. No classroom is going to be happy with the class president if only 14 students voted for him; in the same fashion, the voting population is never going to be happy with the country’s president if 60% of them didn’t even choose the guy. No wonder we keep squabbling with each other – the other guys fucked us up with their votes.

The sheer number of candidates tends to divide the public rather than unite them, which is the opposite of what an election should do. Again, I’m being idealistic here, but I’d like to imagine that an election is a time for people to come together and discuss what exactly the country needs, as personified by a leader. Sure, there are always going to be opposing voices, but look at it this way – with two candidates, the worst you’ll get is one half of the population disagreeing with the other half. With 5 candidates, your worst case scenario involves each fifth of the population fighting with each of the four other fifths. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather have two large-sized chunks of the population fighting each other rather than 5 smaller chunks arguing among themselves. At least more people work towards a common cause in the former scenario. At least there’s some sense of unity there.

I don’t see this problem going away, either. I’m not going to pretend that I know anything about bipartisan politics, and I’m probably exposing myself as a himbo here, but I do know that our politicians are too involved with themselves to actually sit together and decide which single person would be the best candidate to represent either the left or the right. Our leaders would rather divide the public’s opinion than bring it together, all for their own ambitions for power. It’s downright ridiculous.

This is why I’d like to share an equally-ridiculous, completely uneducated solution: hold the elections like fucking Survivor. That’s right – have the candidates battle it out and prove their worth to the Philippine tribe. Let the candidates scramble for public favour in an effort to save themselves from being voted out by the population. Hell, we already have the personalities to make a decent show – Manny Villar, the picture of success; JC de Los Reyes, the spunky young upstart; Joseph Estrada, the charming ex-con looking to redeem himself; and Noynoy Aquino, the guy whose mom died. All we need is an impartial Jeff Probst to give them challenges and tally the votes.

I can see it now – on week 1, Jeff tells the candidates they have three weeks to improve the nation’s hunger issue. The candidate who feeds the most mouths gets immunity. Villar takes the easy route and rains money over depressed areas while perched on his solid gold helicopter. Noynoy distributes canned goods with yellow labels (natch), helping the hungry subsist on Argentina Corned Beef and canned lychees. De Los Reyes plays the youth card, calling all students to volunteer in the effort and promising them better grades in return. Erap smiles and winks at the populace, assuring us that “mabubusog ang masa sa pagmamahal ko"(the masses will get full thanks to my love for them). At the end of three weeks, Erap inexplicably survives the vote despite 600 people dying of starvation on his watch. By the time we reach the grand finale, the remaining two contestants make their final appeals to the voters before the ballots are cast.

Sure, it’s impractical, oversimplified, and lacks any proper understanding of politics, but at least we’ll have the candidates actually serving the country as they campaign, rather than the empty posturing we see all the time. Even if the winning candidate turns out to be a major bomb, as was the case with our more recent administrations, they’ll at least have done the public some service.

Just don’t let Bayani Fernando walk around naked on camera.

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