Philippine Political Parties, Electoral System and Political Reform

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Philippine Political Parties, Electoral System and Political Reform The most important characteristic of Philippine political parties is that they are parties of the elite. In some senses, parties anywhere in the world are elite formations whether one defines elite in functional terms as those who lead or in sociological terms as those who hold economic and political power. But many parties at least attempt to organize regularized support from a broader segment of the population. These efforts result in a more or less stable membership, regularized patterns of interaction within and between parties, and characteristic forms of ideological or political self-definition. In contrast, Philippine political parties are unabashed 'old boys clubs'. There are non-elite individuals, mostly men, who identify with one or another party, but all of them are followers ("retainers" might be a better word) of elite individuals. These individuals are linked together in shifting coalitions from barangays (the lowest government unit) all the way to the national government in Manila. At the core of this system are wealthy families in the town centers united downwards with dominant barangay families and upward with similar families in other towns. Some of these families are wealthy enough on their own to unite municipal political organizations and finance provincial electoral battles, or battles for congressional seats at the district level. These families constitute the provincial elite. The national elite differ from the provincial only in degree. Most importantly, the national elite are those families which "have attained a level of wealth and status practically immune from the vicissitudes of political fortune" Other distinct characteristics of Philippine political parties, the shifting character of membership and leadership and the absence of ideological or programmatic differences between parties are linked to the nature of differentiation in the elite. Historically, class fractions have remained relatively small. No one upper class group has attained a level of economic power sufficient for it to dominate other fractions and impose its interests and its program on the state. This is in contrast with Latin America, for example, where divisions among upper class groups have been expressed in differentiation between political parties. One of the main explanations for this pattern of differentiation in the elite is the underdeveloped and dependent character of the economy through most of the last century. Subsistence agriculture and share tenancy do not provide adequate structures for capital accumulation. Export agriculture was either small holder as in coconut exports or, as in the case of sugar, dependent on the American sugar quota and on conspicuous consumption as an extra-economic means of dominance over sugar workers and competing elites. Neither industry provided a base sufficient for capital accumulation. Commerce and trade were largely in the hands of the Chinese. Pres. Ramos' rise to power provides a perfect example of the weakness of political parties relative to government, and political clans. Laban ng Demokratikong Pilipino (LDP) had been the ruling party since the 1987 elections when it won an overwhelming majority of contested seats in both national and local elections. Because Pres. Aquino, however, refused to support LDP's candidate, instead supported Ramos, campaigning for him and using the resources of the government, LDP's candidate, Mitra lost badly. LDP won the majority in both the House and the Senate, but a few months after the House convened, LDP lost most of its members to Ramos' party. •Parties are required to register with the COMELEC with a verified petition with attachments including a constitution, by-laws, platform, and such other information as may be required by the COMELEC. They are required to have chapters in a majority of regions, and within each region, a majority of provinces, down to towns...
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