Mapping the battlefield’s coalitions and contestations

cainghog nelsonPictures speak a thousand words. Election maps as graphic representations of a battlefield reveal important insights on Philippine politics. Here are at least five notable ones:

First, the president’s party has an advantage – in terms of numbers.

In 2007, Gloria’s party, Lakas-Kampi had 50 governors. In 2010, they were still a majority with 41 governors. In 2013, however, Lakas will be fielding only eight candidates for governor. At best, Lakas will have eighty percent less than the number of governors they had in 2010.

The opposite trend is true for the Liberal Party. When PNoy won the presidency in 2010, Liberal only had 13 governors, up from 10 in 2007. Within PNoy’s first three years, this increased to 36 mainly due to defectors from other parties. In 2013, the Liberal Party will have the most number of gubernatorial candidates in 61 out of 80 provinces in the country. Its coalition also has the most number of candidates at the local level.

Second, politics is addition.

There are provinces where the Liberal Party would have little chance of winning. Coalescing with other parties becomes a reasonable option in these areas (see uncolored provinces in the map for the Liberal Party). For instance, in noth Negros Occidental and Bulacan, LP is supporting Nationalist People’s Coalition gubernatorial bet Genaro Alvarez and National Unification Party candidate for governor Wilhelmino Sy-Alvarado, respectively. In Bukidnon, the party coalesced with Jose Ma. Zubiri, Jr.’s Paglaum Party. In Ilocos Norte, Rizal and La Union, where formidable political families rule, the LP is not contesting top provincial posts but is hoping for the areas support for its senatorial slate through the Marcoses 'affiliation with NP, and the Ynareses' and Ortegases' affiliation with the Nationalist People’s Coalition.

Third, addition takes the risk of overflow when egos cannot be contained in one coalition. Complications in local races ensue (compare provincial level maps for all parties).

The Nacionalista Party (NP) and the Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC), major political parties and part of the Liberal Party (LP)-led Team PNoy coalition, are slugging it out with Liberal Party gubernatorial candidates in several provinces. NPC bets are going against LP nominees in Camiguin, Cotabato, Ifugao, Lanao del Norte, Lanao del Sur, Marinduque, Masbate, Negros Oriental, Nueva Ecija, Palawan, Pangasinan, Samar and Tawi-Tawi.

In Ilocos Sur, Dinagat Islands,  Misamis Oriental, Nueva Vizcaya, and Surigao del Norte, NP candidates have LP opponents. Camarines Sur is a three-way fight between the three parties.

However, this is not unique to Team PNoy. In Nueva Vizcaya, the nominee of the United Nationalist Alliance is opposed by a candidate from an UNA allied party, Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino (PMP).

Why pick a fight with your supposed coalition partners? 

My fourth point provides some clue: The incoming election is a high-stakes game that will determine the positioning of local machinery for the 2016 elections.

Strategic areas like vote rich provinces (see map on number of voters) should , as much as possible, be under LP control. LP is fielding candidates where it thinks it could win, notwithstanding coalition agreements. In spite of the LP-NPC alliance, Hernani Braganza of the Liberal Party is challenging NPC’s Amado Espino, Jr. incumbent governor of Pangasinan.  LP coalesced with National Unification Party in Bulacan but went all out against NUP’s candidate in Cebu by fielding its own slate of LP members. In Cebu, the province with the most number of voters, the incumbent governor became vulnerable when she allegedly committed administrative lapses that resulted in her suspension.

While all politics is addition, party members are still better than temporary coalition partners.

Fifth and finally, the ruling party does not always rule at the local level. Given the autonomy of local governments granted through devolution, the president only has supervision, not control, over local governments. The gaps in the ruling party’s map of municipal and provincial tickets show the limits of the ruling party’s resources. It is costly to challenge politicians from other parties who have entrenched themselves in power. Given these limitations, coalitional politics would likely remain as a preferred strategy. Looking at the map, this means no single color will completely fill the Philippine map.

For a more detailed presentation on the voting population, political preferences and bailiwicks, please view the interactive presentation at the Interactive Electoral Map section of this website.

Nelson Cainghog
Author: Nelson Cainghog
Nelson Cainghog is an Assistant Professor of Political Science from the University of the Philippines-Diliman.
He recently finished his master’s degree at the Australian National University and was a recipient of the Australian Government’s prestigious 2011 Endeavour Postgraduate Awards.