Election Universe

How a successful election stabilizes a region

How a successful election stabilizes a region
October 16 2013, 15:35

For decades, the Autonomous Region in Moslem Mindanao (ARMM) in the Philippines had been the locus of violence that had claimed thousands of lives and destroyed millions of pesos in properties. A deadly separatist rebellion, unabated warlordism, and  a  lower than the national average rate of literacy have all conspired to make the region one of the least-liveable and the poorest in the Philippines.

For the Commission on Elections (Comelec), the government body tasked to administer the elections, the ARMM had been a perennial source of vexation, having consistently experienced massive failures of elections since 1987.

The Sisyphean task of keeping peace and order in the region falls in the hands of the police and the army who have had to deal with almost daily incidences of coercion, intimidation, fraud, and actual violence to voters.  Particularly vulnerable are the teachers who find themselves in harm’s way as they  supervise the balloting, counting and canvassing.

Yet in 2013,  the region stunned the nation when it registered a 100% poll success rate.

According to Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes,  “For the first time in recent history in this country, there was election in Lanao del Sur and that no single failure of elections was declared.”

While the poll chief was coy about specific reasons for this turnaround,  many astute observers of politics point to the confluence of at least four factors.

First is the the  Comelec’s cleanup of the voters’ list in the region. Likened to cleaning the Augean Stables, the Herculean labor  has resulted in the purging of 280,000 illegitimate names.  Needless to say, this  reboot has boosted the Comelec’s  efforts to curb identity-related electoral fraud.

Secondly, the agency has cracked the whip on politicians who flouted election rules.   Long criticized for paying no more than lip service to rule-enforcement, the Comelec surprised many with its new-found determination to make politicians, most of which have been used to getting away with violations with impunity, to finally toe the line.  Through skilful use of traditional and social media , the Comelec’s Education and Information Department was able to galvanize netizen  into shaming candidates into obeying the rules.

Third, the Comelec’s intensified coordination with the police and the armed forces has created an environment of peace and order that had the effect of discouraging impunity.

The fourth, and perhaps the most important reason, is the poll body’s decision  to stick with the PCOS (Precinct Count Optical Scanners).  The voting machines  first saw use in the country’s first automated elections in 2010 and due to its  ease of use and the way it had revolutionized the country’s elections, had become been widely popular with the Filipinos.

Generally acknowledged as the most reliable and transparent polls in the country’s history, the results of the 2013 elections has a very high level of acceptance from voters and the candidates themselves.  With only 62 electoral protests filed out of 18,000 positions, and with a significantly lower number of violence recorded, the 2013 elections had proved to be much-needed a stabilizing factor in the region.