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The left, elections, and the political party system in the Philippines

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Elections in the Philippines have long been the turf of trapos — traditional politicians identified with the country's oligarchic elite. At the same time, elections have been one of the weakest spots on the left. This is so not only because the trapos have always seen to it that there is no level playing field, but also because for some time, a large section of the left rejected elections as “bourgeois” exercises and chose to boycott them and fight in other arenas. This article examines the electoral challenge of the left — communists and the Communist Party-aligned “national democrats,” as well as social democrats and independent socialists — to the trapos and traditional parties in the Philippines. The author argues that the left has not made much progress in breaking trapo domination over the post-Marcos political party and electoral systems not so much because of its long-held aversion to electoral politics, as some scholars contend, but more because of the persistence of an instrumental view of democratic processes and institutions — at least within a sizeable part of the left. But this is changing. The author observes that some emergent left parties have adopted or are moving toward an integral view of democracy. These emergent forces have made vital breakthroughs in the congressional partylist vote and are now more methodically entering other electoral contests, particularly at the barangay (village) and municipal levels.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: March 1, 2005

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