, April 22, 2024

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The Succession Game

  •   4 min reads
The Succession Game
From Facebook : House of the Reperesentatives | VP Sara Duterte 

Through all the political drama, the opposition - what remains of it - has been relegated to the bleachers, munching on soggy popcorn

By Joey Salgado

The unceremonious demotion of former president and Pampanga Representative Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has triggered talks of a premature break within the administration that will guarantee mutually assured destruction in the 2025 mid-term elections. Opposition partisans consider this an earthshaking development that bodes well for the opposition. That’s quite a stretch. It’s not an earthquake, folks. It’s just a hiccup.

This is not an unraveling of the administration coalition. On the contrary, the administration is expected to reap the political windfall. While the feuding protagonists have hurled thinly-disguised insults at each other, their public statements all end with a declaration of unwavering support for the President. It’s a re-positioning, a game of musical chairs, all within the big tent. And it comes with a bonus: the diminished political clout of two former presidents.

The premise for the former president’s demotion was a supposed plot to unseat the Speaker. This has been interpreted as a bid to shore up support for the Vice President whose 2028 presidential run is seen as pre-ordained. Arroyo, no stranger to ouster plots and credited with brokering the Marcos Jr.-Sara tandem, is widely regarded as the Vice President’s political mentor.

But the positioning began much earlier, when former president Duterte indulged in an early display of post-presidency muscle flexing with calibrated public appearances and interviews. It was a reminder to his core supporters and his partymates in the PDP-Laban that he intends to be a very visible and politically active ex-president. It was a signal not to jump ship.

However, the emergence of a new political party, the Kilusan ng Nagkakaisang Pilipino (KNP), threatens his hold on the party. The PDP-Laban has already lost members to the KNP and Lakas-NUCD. Meanwhile, the former president's party has entered into an alliance with Lakas, now firmly in the hands of the Speaker. This sly move would preempt former president Duterte should he decide to break ranks and field his own candidates in 2025.

The mid-terms will be a test of machinery, loyalty, and clout for those casting moist eyes on the presidency in 2028. But political parties as we know it are largely inconsequential to the results of presidential elections. They feed on the generosity of the benefactor but their loyalty is tenuous, easily shaken by pre-election surveys. Political parties and politicians gravitate towards the perceived frontrunner, the flavor of the quarter, or in the case of come-from-behind wins, the winning candidate. Still, the game of politics must be played.

Wanted: A New Opposition

Through all the political drama, the opposition - what remains of it - has been relegated to the bleachers, munching on soggy popcorn. Despite its somnolent state, the opposition should not leave the fate of the mid-terms in the hands of these feuding factions. It should begin preparing for the 2025 mid-terms. And it should be prepared to lose.

With a reconfigured coalition behind him, the President will be a formidable endorser. Remember that former president Duterte was elected with 17 million votes, but immediately consolidated public support. The 2019 mid-term elections was a rout for the Liberal Party-instigated Ocho Derecho. President Marcos Jr. garnered 31 million votes, the first modern majority president. You can just picture the massacre at the polls.

For the opposition, the 2025 elections will be a suicide mission. But it needs to be done. Someone has to wave the banner, worn and tattered as it is. It will be an uphill battle, and the opposition must have the perseverance and the patience to play the long game. As one party organizer would say, one step backward, two steps forward.

Atty. Leni Robredo Facebook Page

But who will represent the opposition? Under whose banner will the thousands of enthusiastic youth volunteers who campaigned hard for former Vice President Leni Robredo rally behind? Definitely not the Liberal Party (LP).

For many voters, the LP has come to embody elitist politics and the failure of the 1986 EDSA Revolution to lift majority of our people from economic misery. It is a damaged political group, and the damage is partly self-inflicted.

The LP plunged into the presidential campaign with soft hands. Consumed by self-righteousness, the LP campaign failed to capture the imagination of voters despite the valiant efforts of its volunteers.

Looking Inward

What is needed is a broader, people-based opposition. And before such an opposition can move forward, it must look inward. It needs to undertake a serious rethinking of politics and political campaigns, particularly voter engagement. It should accept that it totally missed or ignored the reality that the ground shifted in 2016, and this shift was affirmed in 2019. The LP failed or refused to recalibrate, bemoaned disinformation while failing to confront it head on, and foolishly denied the science of surveys, the same surveys they extol when results were in their favor. Until now, some of its supporters continue to blame the voters for the defeat of Robredo.

The opposition must proceed with heads bowed, with humility, more openness, and less arrogance. Hopefully, such a rethinking and revisioning will lead to a leaner, more flexible organization that is no longer captive to outmoded doctrines and politics-as-usual.

Unless it does so, the opposition could suffer the fate of the remnants of the Left, bogged down by a worldview and rhetoric that went the way of the VCR. And the nation will be trapped in a cycle of populist outsiders taking turn at the reins of power.

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