One of the things that kept me preoccupied (and away from hellokindredstrangers) is the 2013 Midterm Election in the Philippines, my country. In this election (which happened this past Monday), people were asked to elect 12 Senators and a Party-list representative (see the following link if you aren’t sure what “party-lists” are about in the country’s political system: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Party-list_representation_in_the_House_of_Representatives_of_the_Philippines) at large, and their House of Representatives member, Mayor, Vice Mayor and six City/Municipal Councilors at the local level. And despite the passage of time, certain things have not changed.
You know it’s election season in the Philippines when you notice the following around you:
a) Vehicles roam around with loud speakers, blaring campaign jingles of the candidates that paid them to do so. [I have tried but failed to capture a picture of this because either I see them when I don’t have my camera, or they aren’t there when I am lugging my camera around!]
b) Flyers and banners of candidates all over the place. There used to be tons of campaign posters that stuck to walls that blighted the landscape and were difficult to remove. Thankfully, the authorities have cracked down on that lately and recent elections haven’t been blighted by such.
c) Local celebrities (of various kinds) campaigning for a position in the government, or helping out in someone else’s campaign.
d) News that talk about candidates breaking campaign rules, committing verbal gaffes, mudslinging each other (probably a universal thing when elections come around), or worse sending goons to kill off rivals and their supporters. The last is the reason why we have
e) Gun bans (where you’re not allowed to bring out in public your firearm) that run from mid January to mid June of an election year. Due to this, there are usually checkpoints (especially during late nights) at random locations. There are always at least several hundred people who get busted for violating that each election season.
f) Someone you know tells you about being offered money and other freebies to vote for a certain candidate.
g) You won’t be able to buy alcohol on the day before or on Election Day.
h) On the Saturday before, the biggest election rallies take place – usually in order for a political party (or alliance) to summarize what they stand for in order to make one last push for votes. We have a term for that in the Philippines: “Miting de avance”.
i) Your neighborhood voting precinct will have tons of campaign material (namely banners, flyers, and posters) nearby.
j) Some places will experience unexplained power outages on that day.
k) The official election commission won’t start counting the votes until at least a week after the voting finishes, and the results aren’t often finalized till about a month later. [Regarding this point, I did hear that the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) promised to change this practice and even promised final results within 48 hours of voting precincts closing, but most of us weren’t convinced considering their track record. Indeed it’s been over 48 hours since the polls closed and we are still waiting for their official final tally. Surprise!]
l) There is always a losing candidate that will complain about “getting cheated” after the Election.
There are other things that characterize a Philippine election, but these are the very things I tend to notice regularly ever since I became conscious of politics.
On top of that, there’s the embarrassingly obvious fact that many of the most qualified candidates frequently get overlooked by voters swayed by name recall, glamour, money, freebies, and a host of other rather (for lack of a better word) shallow factors. It’s sad and annoying at the same time, and I never fail to shake my head in embarrassment at something once the vote counting finishes.
I highly doubt this 2013 Midterm Election will be any different. However, such is democracy and in such a scenario you aren’t always going to get what you want. I guess it is because of this that there are people who emphasize the necessity of getting involved with your nation’s political affairs beyond just casting a ballot.
Nevertheless, no matter how this Midterm Election turns out, here’s another thing that will never change: I will always LOVE my country, even though it and its politics can annoy the hell out of me!