A referendum for the opposition

Whether or not Bam Aquino does make it to the magic 12 in the official COMELEC Canvass the outcome of the 2019 senatorial elections is a disastrous showing. 1 out of 12 elected senators will make it 5 opposition senators out of 24 in the next senate.

In the lower house, there may be less than 30 opposition congressmen out f the 240 or so representatives. Even once strong party list groups didn’t perform as well, their precious voter base, which is the main capital of their influence, whittled down considerably.

This gives President Rodrigo Duterte a refreshed, if not stronger congressional mandate to push vital legislation that can further decentralize and deconcentrate political power and empower local economies. The opposition has notably opposed such moves, particularly the desire for constitutional change to shift to a federal form of government.

For the opposition, this sounds the gong of defeat, and a possibly diminished role in the coming years, as the sheer lack of numbers will take its toll once important debates are under way. Many of their once avid stalwarts have encamped themselves in the administration, the midterm elections only solidifying their role as supporters of the president’s government.

How well they will play a fiscalizing role will also depend on them. Their fortunes for future electoral exercises and political advocacy will also depend on how the electorate views them. If they become merely noisy, token oppositors, their credibility will suffer as many congressional debates will now require the best principled opposition they can muster. Can they be trusted to deliver that?

Yet what went wrong for the opposition will be the stuff of analysis to come. Social media is already full of this analysis from within and outside opposition support groups.

As the campaign began, many quarters hoped for a unified ticket between the Makabayan bloc with its lone sneatoral candidate Neri Colmenares and the otso diretso. Team. The opposite happened. They ran their own campaigns and as expected, performed poorly in the surveys despite high awareness among voters due to the exposure given to them in mainstream and social media, particulary twitter.

Another issue was the message, which remained unclear until the last week of the campaign. The common denominator was a muddled mishmash that only seemed to desire the presence of an opposition for the sake of democracy. Was this compelling enough reason to vote them in?

Worse, the lack of clear messaging and imagery (note the use of various colors and hand signs) left them and their support groups to do negative campaigning against a popular administration. They should have readup on their Sun Tzu to know that on difficult ground, engagement is not wise.

Apart from the usual reasons given to justify the loss, there have reportedly been admonitions from many quarters among them to vote only for the 8 opposition candidates led by the Liberal party, leaving out other candidates who also oppose the current administration.

This, as expected, has raised howls of protest from many friends within the ranks of the opposition supporters. This created more discord that did not help them and almost all of their candidates, who, despite high media exposure, are nowhere near the winners circle.

Apart from this, the use of University mock polls showing them sweeping the possible senate may have actually worked against them. Being promoted late in the game when most of the voters minds are made up on at least half of the senate slate may have served to insult their judgement who didn’t see things the same way as these mock poll results.

Worse, it reinforced the thought of them being a set of candidates detached from the mainstream of Filipino society that thinks otherwise. This sense of “exclusion” reinforces accusations of elitism that turns off voters even more.

From my own experience in senatorial campaigns, the sole message is why a candidate deserves a senate seat. All other political messages need to reinforce that. Otherwise, it is unnecessary noise that may turn off voters. Successful candidates are those who have convinced voters that they deserve a seat.

Did the opposition convince voters? Looks like they did not.