The winner is…

Michael Alan Hamlin

Posted on March 13, 2008

My Bulletin column this week provides more perspective on the YPS event

Senator Manuel A. Roxas II was narrowly elected president of the Philippines last Saturday afternoon. In a crowded race, Roxas received 25% of the votes cast, edging out Senate President Manuel Villar, who received 22%. The next closest candidate was Senator Panfilo M. Lacson, who finished with 17%. Perhaps the biggest surprise of the day was the poor showing of Senator Loren Legarda, who received just eight percent of the vote.

Vice President Noli de Castro fared even worse, receiving just one percent of the total ballots cast. Rounding out the field, Metro Manila Development Authority Chairman Bayani Fernando received a disappointing six percent of the vote. Senator Richard J. Gordon finished with four percent. Roxas has so far declined to comment on the results of the election, and no candidate has yet conceded.

The lack of comment can be traced to the nature of the “election,” which was organized by a non-government organization called Young Public Servants (YPS). Last Saturday, YPS organized a one-day workshop, “Youth Vote 2010.” Participants numbered around 70, and included representatives of youth councils from Metro Manila-area universities, members of the academe, and other interested young people. The event, which sought to identify key issues the youth believe should be priority action items for Philippine government officials, included a mock election for the next president.

YPS brands itself as “a group of young dynamic individuals focused on promoting Good Governance and Democratic Citizenship among the youth.” According to the group’s website, members believe “that these elements (good governance and democratic citizenship) are critical in developing a new, focused and dedicated generation of leaders.

“YPS works to establish the foundations of governance and citizenship not only through activities geared towards nation building but in everyday citizens’ activities as well,” the site explains (Full Disclosure: My firm was contracted by YPS to assist in organizing the workshop.). The Youth Vote 2010 workshop was designed as both a learning session for participants, and as a recruitment vehicle for YPS.

YPS is seeking to spread its good government message through an “influentials” channel: Student leaders who attended the Youth Vote 2010 workshop. Participating representatives are expected to cascade information about YPS and its objectives to their respective student bodies with the hope that youth will participate actively in the next national election.

Depending on how you define “youth,” this sector could conceptually have a significant impact on the outcome of the next election. YPS members Jaime Garchitorena and Czarina Medina told participants in the workshop that when youth is defined as adults between 21 and 40, they make up 56% of all Filipinos of voting age. Assuming that their interests are aligned and they vote as a block, the sector could easily elect the next president.

But as the results of the mock election demonstrate, the youth sector doesn’t typically vote as a block. And in previous elections, about a third of young voters don’t vote at all. Historically in the Philippines, the youth vote is aligned with the results of the broader voting public. That doesn’t have to be the case, however. Primary elections in the United States this year are demonstrating that younger voters, when motivated to actively participate in an election, can contribute as a block in a significant way to electing a candidate. Just ask Barak Obama about his experience.

Still, getting the youth vote out has typically been a challenge in just about every democracy. But if the results of a pre-election survey taken at the Youth Vote 2010 workshop are any indication, youth can still, and may be likely, to have a dramatic impact on the next national election. In the survey, respondents overwhelmingly said they would participate in the 2010 election, with 95% indicating they will vote.

Here’s another interesting result of the YPS survey: While 91% of respondent youth leaders indicated that they have already decided which likely candidate they will vote for, 76% do not feel that any of the prospective candidates really represent the youth sector and its interests. While the YPS workshop group was small, because it is an influential crowd, the “presidentiables” should listen to them.

The results of the mock election suggest that the youth vote today, over two years prior to the election, is not united behind a single candidate, and over 50% of the voters in the exercise voted for someone other than the top two candidates. While a crowded field increases the chances of a fragmented vote, if a candidate can inspire the youth, similar to the way Barak Obama has been able to in the U.S., the 21-40-aged youth might actually make a collective difference.

No Comments

Leave a response