Last Saturday, the electoral district of Willagee had a by-election after its MP, who was the former State Premier, resigned. The campaign and voting went well despite seemingly unnoticed. The campaign mainly consisted of print ads in community papers and distribution of leaflets in letter boxes of residents. If there was some exchanges between the candidates in media outlets, the topics will mainly be on policy concerns and what they can offer. Voting is also compulsory here in Australia, anyone who fails to vote risk paying a fine. I think the fine is to cover the cost of the materials and preparations allocated for each voter. Voting started from 8:00am to 6:00pm by 7:00pm votes have been counted halfway and before 9:00pm the winner was already known.
In the Philippines, in the light of the Ampatuan massacre, compulsory voting might be a hard call. The basic right of exercising our voice by means of voting has become a privilege that ruling clans and deranged leaders have made exercising this almost impossible. Of course, as with any other case, the carnage (or even the case of people not being able to vote) could just be an “isolated incident” as most of the government authorities would like to put it. However, the government could not even go to some areas to carry out development projects because of problem with insurgency and lawlessness, so an isolated incident will depend where you are in the country. In light of the government’s inability to protect its citizen and deliver services, the Philippine government has resorted to seeking help of powerful clans by giving them some ‘legal’ power to establish their own private army. Delivery of services is assured while insurgents are kept at bay.
Philippine election has always been marred with mudslinging between candidates. A Philippine Daily Inquirer opinion clearly called on potential candidates to present a clear platform for people to examine. This is a good call, however, majority of the voters would likely be voting based on personality unless a cultural shift in the country is achieved. From a culture that always believes that the most popular is the best to a culture that examines what is best for the community. It might still be a long way but I think the country is slowly getting there. It will take a huge and strategic voter’s education to start this cultural shift.
The automated election is underway, let’s see if we will be able to know who is winning by 8:00pm on 10 May 2010 or wait until hackers tries to fix how to slash and pad votes in favour of the few ‘lucky’ ones. I hope the latter will not come to pass.