Of Political Parties, Clientelism, &Fostering Real Democracy


The value of having the right to suffrage is mislaid in “patronage politics” (Kitschelt & Wilkinson, 2007), in that political parties utilize what is meant to be a democratic act as a means to manipulate voters into electing the more charismatic albeit having programs that are “diffuse and erratic” (ibid.).

As such, it results in a travesty of democracy through deep-seated clientelistic linkages. People are not being trained to scrutinize candidates based on their platforms and programs apropos to the candidate’s character. We are tricked into eyeing contenders according to the force of their programs and their personality thus subverting the urgency of credentials and integrity.

Different parties have different target groups and in the case of the Philippines, candidates clamor for the vote of the poor, as they constitute the majority of the land. The challenge is, who can mirror more the profile of the poor or who is more seemingly compassionate to the poor though the candidate be educated and wealthy?

Clientilism is sly, and in the same manner, as mass media is utilized as a major machinery of politicians to draw more votes in their favor, it, too should be made use of as a means to dismantle old practices in choosing who to vote for. One practical way that comes to mind are simple infomercials that may include a checklist for people to consider, one which people from all educational backgrounds can grasp, which will undermine voting candidates who more or less offer promising agenda with little track record consistency. In light of institutional reforms, I firmly believe that there should be regulation of mass media networks and companies on candidate commercials aired, on television and on radio. Presently, media companies do not decline the release of such commercials, being the profit-making enterprise that they are. With government regulation, given that the government agencies designated to such a task is non-biased, the media can instead be used to advance voter education.

The beginnings of the patron-client relationship

Patronist techniques are rife. This being the case, as not everyone can be drawn to read texts or literature on how our democracy is misplaced through such tactics, what would be the most viable tool/s to educate the voter? I have personally found that viewing the profile of candidates through the Internet published in non-profit sites that evaluate the candidate according to his or her political track records as useful. Such websites are those created by organizations that advocate better knowledge about candidates and are therefore much more reliable than the websites that were made by the candidates’ campaign team. Newspapers are also a great source for write-ups on running candidates during election season; the perspective is more or less unbiased. Rather than relying on TV ads, which have become the convention that is banked upon by contenders and the most accessible means to the public, as voters, it is imperative to seek out other means by which we  would be educated of an election candidate’s profile that is closest to reality  to guard from becoming easy prey to political campaign tactics ubiquitous during election season.


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