The Dark Side of Electoralism: Opinion Polls and Voting in the 2016 Philippine Presidential Election

Ronald D. Holmes


Despite the limits of elections as a mechanism to secure accountability and ensure substantive representation, the 2016 elections drew the highest turnout across elections held since the political transition in 1986, a clear indication of electoralism. The high turnout may be a result of a relatively tightly contested race, with each of the main contenders appealing to constituencies that they symbolically represent. Nonetheless, the 2016 Presidential elections remained personality-oriented, media driven and political clan dominated. The eventual winner, Rodrigo Roa Duterte, garnered the presidency given a combination of factors: the clarity of his campaign message – focused on curbing a single problem (criminality, in general, and the illegal drug trade, in particular) that he elevated as the most serious concern that the next president should address; significant support from a geographic area (Mindanao) and associated ethno-linguistic groups (i.e., Bisaya); and, serious questions of character and competence raised against his opponents (i.e. Binay, Poe and Roxas).

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