Saturday, June 05, 2004

The Phillippines' Election Show Drags On

Nearly 4 weeks after the Phillippines held presidential elections, the official results have still not been announced! I detect shades of the hanging chads fiasco here.

MANILA - President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's allies in Congress have vowed to override opposition delays in opening ballot boxes to begin a vote count today that will determine the country's next leader.

Unofficial results leaked by an election official show Mrs Arroyo defeated movie hero Fernando Poe Jr by a narrow margin, but Filipinos and foreign investors are still waiting for formal confirmation more than three weeks after the vote.

'Enough is enough,' Arroyo ally and House of Representatives Speaker Jose de Venecia said yesterday. 'It's about time we gave our people the chance to find out who won.'

Mr Poe's camp accuses the Arroyo administration of fraud in the May 10 election, although election watchdogs said they had seen no indication of systematic or widespread cheating.

After nine days of debate driven by the opposition, the two houses of Congress have yet to tally a single vote from 176 master returns comprising the estimated 32 million ballots cast.
Though one is able to truthfully point out that this sort of thing is hardly unique to the Filipinos, the Philippines is no America, and cannot entertain the sorts of shenanigans America can get away with in the eyes of foreign investors; a long drawn out political struggle over the election results will be tremendously destabilizing for the Philippines' economy.

I find it hard to assess whether the most damning thing of all in this political crisis is the fact that so many Filipinos were willing to give their votes to a high-school dropout actor with no political experience, or whether it is that Arroyo, despite the circumstances in which she came to power, refused to take the hint that becoming enmeshed in corruption scandals can have grave consequences in the Philippines' new political order. The plain truth is that this election wouldn't even have been close if she and her husband had bothered to keep their noses out of the trough, and she'd focused instead on what she was ostensibly holding office to do - fixing the Philippines economy.