By Lcid Crescent D. Fernandez
“Power lies not in what a king does, but in what his subjects believe he might do.
This was profound.
For it meant that the majesty of kings lay in their mystique…not in their might”
T’Challa, Black Panther Issue #2, 2016.
The period of theelections up to the assumption of officeis always interesting territory. During the campaign period, we see candidates put their best foot forward. When the winners have assumed office up until the end of the term, we see the type of leaders they are. But to see the type of people they are? I am of the opinion they are more inclined to show that in the time in between their victory and their actual rule.
It is at this point in time where they are happiest, where they are at their most powerful. They have the favor of the people. They can say and do anything. What will democracy embolden them to do next? This is always telling of the type of people our leaders are, at least from a PR standpoint.
Generally, there are two paths an election winner takes when he wins. This is because he’s imagined it in his head for quite a while. “Oh the things I would do when I win.” The knee-jerk reaction is always the true reaction, my mother would say.
These paths are either capitalization or restraint.
Sure enough there is an example of either in these elections. The first one hits close to home. Iloilo City Mayor – elect Jerry Treñas is set to make his return to the City Hall come June 30. His first response upon winning is to immediately warn the employees aligned with his adversary. Leave or be booted out. Two choices that were given in exercise of someone’s power. Quick to come down, no moment of negotiation or lobbying. Just an ultimatum. He was quick to use his power.
On the other end of the spectrum is Pasig City Mayor – elect Vico Sotto. He recently toppled the Eusebio dynasty that stood for 27 years. Mayor Sotto is 29 years old. One can easily presume that the employees of the City Hall are still under Eusebio control having been under their power for almost as long as the incoming Mayor has been alive. Pasig City Hall employees feared for their jobs given the changing of the guard. The response, however, was to tell them that as long as they are doing their jobs, none of them will be fired. He could have used his power. But he chose to restrain himself.
Neither of these approaches are right or wrong. That’s not the point of this discussion. The discussion is more about the strategic value either will have given the situation. They do, however, communicate different messages and translate into different outcomes in the public sphere.
Capitalization signals that power will be used where it can be used. It exudes strength and decisiveness, letting the public know that there will be no hesitation in the exercise of that power. In the former situation, capitalization is the strategic approach. You have a veteran politician who already has a well-known reputation, and has just amassed a massive win in the race to Mayor where he was expected to win. There is no need to endear himself to the public who is well acquainted with him. His goal is to set the tone of his leadership. This approach evokes fear, and if used well, respect.
Restraint communicates that power will be used secondarily to understanding. It forwards compassion and empathy, telling the public that power will only be used when it is necessary. In the second situation, restraint is also strategic. A young, first-term politician who has publicly made statements against traditional politics refusing to take the spoils of war. Restraint is consistent with the public identity he has crafted and it’s translated to public love and adoration. It surrounds his office with feeling of hope that change will come in the best of ways.
These emotions and narratives are important because they color the narrative behind the decisions made. Ignoring their rightness or wrongness, the decisions of restraint users are normally viewed with the idea that it had to be done. Other options were considered but this was the necessary course of action. Capitalization users are viewed as swift decision makers who have the “political will” to make the unpopular choice.
Two contradicting ideas as to how kings can act with their power, dictating what the populace can expect from their rule. All kings have majesty, it’s how they use it that keeps them in power or ousts them.