Premature celebration, premature congratulations?

Posted: May 13, 2010 in 2010 elections, governance, Philippine politics

I really hate to be a spoil-sport but I will go on just the same and raise some questions re the May 10 general elections.

The Inquirer today reports that “[T]he number of disenfranchised voters in last Monday’s election may range from 2 million to 8 million, a figure that could have changed the picture of the vice presidential and senatorial races, according to the Commission on Elections’ consultant on queue management.

While the automated voting was a success, Marvin Beduya said other aspects of the May 10 computerized elections may be considered a failure.

Beduya is quoted saying: “I think we should celebrate the success of the automated voting soberly and with the thought that it may not have delivered the true will of the people, the key purpose of elections, in a manner that is very difficult to prove”.

The long lines and the crowds wilting outside the polling precincts may have discouraged millions of voters from exercising their right to vote, said Beduya, an adjunct professor at the Asian Institute of Management, in his blog http://www.synthesistblog.com.

He said this may have affected the outcome in the tight races, particularly in the vice presidential contest between Makati Mayor Jejomar Binay and Sen. Manuel Roxas II. The margin of votes between the two candidates was just under a million votes.

Basing his computation on the voter turnout, the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting data, and the historical record, Beduya said between 1.91 million to 7.92 million voters may have decided not to turn out and vote—what other analysts have termed “self-disenfranchisement.”

“I am inclined to believe that these discouraged voters who came from the demographic of the elderly and the disabled, mainly in the urban areas and so may have voter preferences skewed to certain candidates,” he said.

Aside from the vice presidential race, this management failure may also have affected the contest among the 11th-, 12th- and 13th-placed senatorial candidates. Based on historical data, the margins between the candidates in these spots are small.

Beduya said the congestion at the polling centers was due to such factors as the clustering of the precincts, the board of election inspectors lack of training to handle the large numbers of voters, and technical anxiety about the voting machines.

Let me comment on Beduya’s observations.  How can anybody celebrate the ‘success’ of the automated election system if one similarly recognizes that it may not have reflected the ‘true will of the people’ given the large numbers of apparently disenfranchised voters?

I also argue that Beduya makes an unwarranted conclusion when he declares that the disenfranchisement only affects the contest between Roxas and Binay for the vice presidential post as well as the contest for the 11th up to the 13th senatorial posts.

I think it can also affect the presidential contest between Noynoy and Erap.

Let me first declare that I will give up my Filipino citizenship if Erap gets a second lease in the presidential palace.

Let me also say that I have already accepted Noynoy as the 15th president of the Republic.

However, if some 2 to 8 million voters were disenfranchised last Monday, then even Noynoy’s spectacular lead over Erap of close to 5 million votes does not guarantee that he actually won the polls especially if we take the high end of the estimate.

Of course, we will not know how the disenfranchised would have voted last Monday.  For all we know, most of them would have still voted for Noynoy.

But that is precisely the point.  We will not know and we cannot know–a point that Beduya himself recognizes.

We should really pay attention to improving the queue management system, as Beduya was reported to have recommended last Tuesday.  It may have been a mistake to cluster precincts and prior time-and-motion studies should have been mounted to see if 1,000 voters per clustered precinct could be properly serviced within the designated voting time period.

Conrad de Quiros and Harry Roque are reportedly happy to be proven ‘wrong’ re their apprehensions over the new voting system.  The local bourse also reacted favorably with upbeat indices.

Elsewhere, Moody’s believes the absence of doubt re Noynoy’s victory is favorable to the country’s credit rating.  The credit rating agency said the seeming consensus that Aquino was the clear winner of the 2010 presidential election meant that the probability of disruptions created by protests by losing candidates is low.

Consequently, Moody’s said, the absence of chaos in the political front appeases investors and encourages a positive outlook on the Philippine economy.

Given Beduya’s observations regarding substantial voter disenfranchisement, aren’t the celebrations and congratulations premature?  Or shouldn’t they be at least qualified?

I strongly share Mr. Beduya’s opinion and concern that we cannot simply move on and feel good about Monday’s elections.  We need to dissect our first stab at automated elections, identify shortcomings, and implement measures to correct them so they will  not happen again in future elections.

Finally, can’t the COMELEC be put to task for allowing disqualified presidential candidate Acosta to still be made available to voters?  Large notices regarding his disqualification should have been posted in every precinct to warn voters who will choose him that they are wasting their votes!

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