So the UK wakes (after a long night of swing-o-meter fun) to face the reality of a hung parliament with a Conservative majority. Change has been promised by all of the candidates throughout their election campaigns, but there will be much skepticism as to what can be accomplished in the face of this result, whatever the intentions of those in charge.
In the Philippines meanwhile, voters face a tense weekend as they wait to cast their own votes in the presidential elections on Monday 10th . Here, too, the talk is of change, but election campaigning is a wildly different beast, and popular participation is something the Filipinos haven’t needed televised debates to secure. In fact, talk of policy in general is scarce to invisible, but use of the popular media certainly isn’t – Filipino television is rammed wall-to-wall with colourful adverts for each of the seven presidential candidates. Cameron may have had Gary Barlow on his campaign trail, and Eddy Izzard was on our TV screens supporting Labour, but such efforts seem lazy in comparison to the catchy campaign songs and celebrity endorsements that each presidential advert boasts.
It’s not just the television that is packed with propaganda – everywhere you walk the streets are lined with thousands of equally colourful posters, strung up from houses and telegraph poles like festive bunting, while teams of colour co-ordinated campaigners drive round in brightly painted trucks, singing their candidate’s blaring campaign theme. It’s not just the presidential candidates that have these either – local elections, mayoral elections, and positions for senators and members of congress are all decided on the same day, and each candidate seems to have their own theme tune and team of enthusiastic canvassers to sing it, making the whole process seem entirely incomprehensible.
But the bright banners and pop songs hide a darker side to the Filipino elections and while many are hoping for a change to the corruption endemic to the current government, others are just hoping for a peaceful election. Violence, particularly in the provinces where local family clans vie for power, has come to be closely associated with election time, and already it is reported that 90 people have been killed in connection with the current campaign. Even in Manila there could be trouble if the new computerised voting system doesn’t work as planned – threats of politically organised “brown-outs” – cutting electricity in areas where the vote may go the “wrong way” – are rife, and problems with the memory chips mean that the teachers who will be administrating the polling stations on Monday still don’t know whether votes will be counted electronically or by hand (the latter option could take weeks).
Despite all of this, the expected turnout for the Philippine election is about 80% of the eligible population, and the popular appeal, or perhaps the great desire to see some change, seems to have won through. Even so, most of my friends here don’t hold out much hope for any real difference, with the current leading candidate described only as “the lesser of two evils”. Given the blatant corruption, celebrity culture and family loyalties that seem to characterise Asia’s most active democracy here, suddenly a hung parliament with a Conservative majority doesn’t seem to look so bad…