December 7, 2006 : Thursday
Election Fraud, a Country’s Sickness
Clarisse C. San Felipe
In the, elections are held every six years for President and Vice-President, and every three years for the bicameral Congress. Senators in the 24-seat upper house have six-year terms, staggered to fill 12 seats every three years. The President, Vice-President, and Senators are all elected by the nation as a whole.
Nowadays, fraud in‘ elections is not uncommon, as all Filipino citizens know. This is one of the reason why our country is still in need of progress.
If we call illnesses dirty electoral practices, such as vote buying, intimidation, double voting, or registration fraud, and treatment clean election reforms such as the secret ballot, new forms of identification, tighter registration rules, and improved voting technologies, then treatment induced illnesses are various forms of damage to democracy. These most notably take the form of voter alienation, demobilization, and disfranchisement.
Is the damage done to democracy by these mechanisms intentional, or is it an unplanned consequence of well-intentioned reform? The short answer is both. Because clean election reforms are often complex and difficult to implement, and because candidates, operatives, and voters often respond to reforms in unanticipated ways, well-intentioned measures often produce harm—especially when the new measures are inherently restrictive. But not all harm is an unintended by-product of benign reform (in spite of how the reforms may be presented in public). Because reform is often partisan, measures have be crafted, implemented, or responded to in ways that intentionally disfranchise or demobilize select groups of voters. Fraud and manipulation can also alienate voters and thereby depress voter turnout.
It would thus be a mistake to frame the issue too narrowly as a choice between elections that are “clean but exclusionary” on the one hand or “dirty but inclusive” on the other. Both disfranchisement and manipulation depreciate the quality of democracy. The real goal should be to make elections both clean and inclusive as possible. For this reason, it is important to understand how and why clean election reforms sometimes go bad. Such information will hopefully aid legislators and election officials, or the activists in civil society who watch over them, find ways to achieve both goals simultaneously.
Election watchdog groups, public-minded corporations, government election bodies, reformist political parties, and other civic educators sometimes try to clean up dirty electoral practices by teaching ordinary voters to change their behavior. The goal of this education, typically, is to convince people to obey existing election laws, whether it be to vote secretly, to refrain from selling their votes, or to resist the temptation of voting more than once. To the extent that civic educators wish to train voters to act “correctly,” their efforts have a disciplinary component. This reality suggests a need to understand how people who are the target of educational reform experience and react to these disciplinary efforts. Whether voters spurn, absorb, ignore, or misunderstand specific educational messages will have significant implications not only for the effectiveness of the education campaign, but also for the quality of the resulting democracy.
Any attempt to thwart the free exercise of the right of suffrage, like a “No Election” (NO-EL) plan would negate efforts to rebuild the country’s economy and to unite the masses for the success of development programs intended to improve their lives.
The global community is closely watching election developments in thesuch that election results not reflecting the true will of the electorate would discourage investors from doing business in the . Most likely, instability would ensure, thus enhacing poverty and cancer of political corruption.
Democracy, I believe, will only work in a country that is confident of its own political system. Unfortunately for the, people are not confident enough of its own. I can’t blame the populace. They are witnesses to the corruption that is inherent in even the lowest ranks of the system. And, if the population are being bribed to keep silent about it, then it is a welcome gesture. Get the money, eat, and keep silent. It’s a matter of survival for my poor and relegated countrymen.
But thank goodness, a lot of Filipinos still have the courage to correct what is wrong. Lections is not uncommon, as all Filipino citizens know.