Will ideological political parties ever flourish?

Will ideological political parties ever flourish? Featured

IN the span of two weeks, two political icons passed away. Peter Koeppinger (August 5), the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung (KAS) representative in the Philippines from 2009 to 2015; and Jose "Ka Pepe" Abueva (August 18). Ka Pepe was University of the Philippines (UP) president from 1987 to 1993. Both were advocates of a federal-parliamentary democracy.

In the late 1990s with Ka Pepe, the late Rey Teves (RMT), Prof. Clair Carlos, political scientist par excellence, and Rep. Mike Mastura, an Islamic intellectual, I went around the country under the auspices of then KAS heads Willibold Frehner and Klaus Preschle, preaching the gospel of good governance and political institution-building with particular focus on federal-parliamentary government. We founded the Citizens Movement for Federal Philippines (CMFP), with Ka Pepe authoring a book on the Philippine federal constitution. This became our guidebook when we both were appointed by President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to head the 2005 Constitutional Commission (ConCom) as chairman and secretary general, respectively.

In 2009, after RMT's death, Peter Koeppinger came into the picture as the missing third element of the Successor Generation (SucGen) program, which RMT and I started to train "...the next generation of the youth, who may have to carry on the task of lifting the Filipino from the sociopolitical-economic quagmire we, the older generation have helped put them into." ("The birthing - an ideological political party," The Manila Times, Aug. 18, 2021.) The SucGen was the precursor of the Centrist Democratic Movement (CDM) and eventually the Centrist Democratic Party (CDP). Peter's determination to replicate the German experience in creating real political parties for the Philippines starting with the youth and young political technocrats was simply remarkable.

This marks the point where the two icons conjoined. As my co-convenor, Peter provided the wherewithal and Ka Pepe the gravitas to build the CDM chapters in the country with the young professionals who we hoped would sow the seeds for political and social reforms in the country.

Centrist democracy (CD)

One of Peter's serendipitous acts was to invite a neophyte of the 15th Congress, then-Cagayan de Oro Second District Rep. Rufus Rodriguez to the CDM. He would prove to be a prize catch as he worked with the Comelec for the accreditation of the CDP on Sept. 12, 2012. He was elective president of CDP.

Peter and Ka Pepe, the oldest members of the CDP, are no longer with us. But the CDP still exists, not as the founders envisioned it but in a lesser state. It is thriving principally in Cagayan de Oro and pockets around the country; which brings us to the theme of this column which seeks to answer the question at the masthead: Will an ideological party ever flourish?

Not in the short run! Perhaps in the next generation or two. To recall, this series of columns at The Manila Times sought to dissect the state of our political parties within a dysfunctional system touching on the old two-party regime of the LP-NP rivalry to the creation of PDP-Laban; its journey and growth through the years, attaining its apex upon the assumption of the Rodrigo Duterte, a party member himself to the presidency; to its recent split into two factions. PDP-Laban, founded during the dark days of martial law, sought to be different, priding itself as ideologically Christian Socialist, shedding the same over the years and leaning toward the center - as centrist democrats. But today, these labels are irrelevant. Admittedly, it is too early to judge whether the PDP- Laban retains its ideological profile or has turned amorphous chiefly influenced by its leaders, remnants of other political parties or opportunistic 'transferees' or applying the derogatory term - political butterflies. Can it push through with its agenda of good governance to the benefit of the citizenry - the raison d'être for a political party's existence?

It is unfortunate that our dysfunctional political system breeds the type of traditional politics that permeates political parties where the fundamental consideration is political survival of its elective members and preservation of its pelf and privileges based on the oppressive tyranny of numbers - the more elective people in power the better, notwithstanding the quality of its leadership or purity of purpose. Thus, the dictum "politics is addition" becomes an aberration. Elections simply based on candidates' popularity and their winnability trump ideological perspectives. Political parties therefore are forced to recruit actors, athletes and entertainment personalities already popular with the masses, relegating political creed, principles and their beliefs to the back burner. The electorate is thus blamed for their choices perpetuating another anomalous dictum - "one deserves the government one votes into power" - as the dysfunctional system precludes real choices and debates on issues, condemning the voters to perpetual ignorance.

Political party development bill

Pending in Congress for years, the proposed Political Party Development Act of 2011 seeks to correct these anomalies in part by allowing state subsidy of real political parties for the education of the greater masses of the electorate, understanding the dynamics of politics and more importantly reconstruct the political party system, in effect taking out the patrons, the oligarchy and the family political dynasties from the electoral and political party equations. In short, reforms are instituted that will allow unimpeded access to our political system by the ordinary citizenry (see "Political parties - what we need," The Manila Times, July 21. 2021). It is unfortunate that the very people tasked to enact these laws are themselves the culprits - Congress.

We cited some European countries, particularly the German model, where government steps in to assume the responsibility of financing both the education of voters and professionalizing their political parties - a central tenet of political reform.

Short of enacting the above reforms into law, an ideological party surviving is almost impossible. A long shot is still for the youth and the young political technocrats with their vibrancy, idealism and anger, still intact, to take the lead. This was tried in the last decade where Peter and Ka Pepe were directly involved - when the CDM was created. It produced a political party with some modicum of success electing local officials. This can be replicated in selected pockets where NGOs, civil society and active youth proliferate and where the national government's presence is not strongly felt. As 'all politics are local, strengthening the political party at that level and using local resources primarily for educating the membership and voters are imperatives. These small places are also where relationships between the electors and the elected are more personal and intimate.

Experimenting with tradpols

A controversial move may be enticing winnable politicians into using their expertise but providing them with a degree of CD principles. This is seemingly surrendering the purity of the party's creed. But the dominance of internal party mechanisms and discipline are guarantees against this prospect.

The CDP in Cagayan de Oro is one such party with its structures and mechanisms in place anchored on a national agenda. It needs to recruit winnable like-minded politicians with CD leanings in adjoining districts. This could be the right formula for a sustainable political party to survive and flourish - one at a time - capture, hold and expand!000
Read 886 times Last modified on Friday, 27 August 2021 12:12
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