By Ramon Casiple for Yahoo! Southeast Asia
The midterm elections traditionally are a preserve of the incumbent president. Conventional political wisdom says that the sitting president—using government resources and the power of his or her powerful position—decides, in many cases, the outcome of senatorial and local elections. The 2013 national, local, and ARMM elections are no different.
Of course, the 2007 national and local elections deviated from this conventional wisdom. Then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was at the abyss of her popularity and the most of her endorsed senatorial candidates, including Miguel Zubiri, lost. Her endorsement then was seen as a kiss of death.
We have now an exactly opposite situation. President "Noynoy" Aquino enjoys stratospheric ratings in the surveys, with almost four out of five Filipinos satisfied with his performance in implementing his promised anti-corruption and anti-poverty reform agenda. He enters the 2013 election period with an unprecedented endorsement power.
His personal participation in the Liberal Party senatorial slate selection process has changed the process as well as the landscape of the senatorial contest itself. It has also led to certain changes in the local political contests.
The impact of the high presidential rating is nowhere more manifested than in the dearth of opposition candidates in almost all levels of electoral contests. The only open opposition to the Aquino ruling coalition are candidates aligned with former president Macapagal-Arroyo.
All others have declared or affirmed their support to President Aquino.
The 2013 elections will not be a referendum on the performance of the Aquino administration. Does this mean that there is no more opposition? Of course not; there are plenty of them. Aside from the members and allies of the former GMA administration, there are the extremists of the Right and Left who are perennial critics and opponents of all post-Marcos democratic regimes. Within the ruling coalition itself, there are those who have their own grievances against Aquino but are too intimidated to come out in the open and possibly lose their privileges.
The high presidential rating and the ineffective opposition opens the window for an unprecedented presidential influence in the 2013 elections. In particular, those who are seen by the voters as adhering or supporting the Aquino administration's "matuwid na daan" (straight road) vision and program will enjoy the advantage. Those whom the president will personally endorse will also have the advantage.
For all candidates who matter, at least a part of the route to electoral victory goes through the Jose P. Laurel St. in San Miguel, Manila.