AS the campaign for the May elections officially opens today, the nation should pause to reflect on some new and old realities that permeate politics in this nation of over one hundred million.
The biggest new reality is that young voters, aged 18 to 24 and age 25-29, now constitute the largest demographics in the Filipino electorate.
New election demographics
Based on the records of the Commission on Elections (Comelec), more than 20 percent (11,026,578) of the 54,363,844 registered voters belong to the 18 to 24 age bracket.
Coming in at second place are voters aged 25 to 29, who number 7,370,037.
Significantly, senior citizens, with 6,695,251 registered voters, form the third largest voting bloc. Their voting power will be felt in the elections, because the seniors will make their sentiment known about President Aquino’s cold-hearted veto of the SSS pension hike for retirees.
The high proportion of young voters means that Generations X and Y (the milennials) now constitute the majority of our people and our electorate.
This is a development that signifies a time of generational change in our politics, our economy, our society and our national culture. Far into the future, generational change will lead to major changes in the political, economic, social and cultural life of the nation.
No major institution and sector of Philippine society will be unaffected. Generational change could mean dynamic change for the better in some areas, or chaos in others.
Comelec Chairman Juan Andres Bautista says that the youth’s pronounced voting power could dictate the outcome of the May elections, if the youth earnestly participate in the balloting, or if the political parties and candidates are able to tap their support.
A flawed political culture
Alongside this new reality of youth voting power, we must also face the hard reality of a flawed political culture that has rapidly deteriorated and is gravely out of step with contemporary times. The culture is moored to traditions, values and practices that have outlived their relevance.
When Filipinos speak derisively of trapos, they should not only mean the discredited traditional politicians, who have held sway in national politics since President Marcos was ousted 30 years ago. Trapo should denote even more traditional Filipino political culture, which represents so much that is backward and stagnant in national politics.
The deplorable features that characterize our political culture are: The high level of patronage and cronyism in the Philippine political system, the precedence of personal relationships over political principles.
These tendencies of our politics were made worse many times over by the Aquino Administration, because President Aquino is the biggest user of patronage politics and cronyism.
Although the May elections will be our third presidential election in the 21st century, we enter this balloting with a grave sense of dysfunction and regression in national politics, of which the key signs are:
1. The disappearance of real and serious political parties. What passes for parties today are makeshift coalitions and political alliances.
2. Filipino politicians do not take membership in political parties and coalitions seriously. They shift allegiances during the campaign, and immediately after the elections.
3. As a consequence, candidates bear no loyalty to one another.
Consequently , Philippine elections today are the most cynical and opportunistic in national history.
Our one big hope for change is that the coming generational change in national politics will bring forth the spirit of innovation and reform. It will throw away the old politics and start afresh. Hopefully, this will mean not just a new generation of leaders, but a new and different politics, with a new generation of voters, with a whole new set of values.