Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Game Changers for the May 2010 Elections

Dr. Prospero E. de Vera

I appeared on Tina Monzon Palma's award winning public affairs show Talk Back last night on the issue - Will Villar be Able to Catch Up? as Manny Villar's Issues Adviser. I answered the question by saying that there are three "game changers" that will determine the outcome of the May 2010 elections. First, the effect of the shift from manual to automation on voter turn out; Second,the endorsement of the Iglesia ni Kristo and the El Shaddai ; and Third, the strength of command votes at the local level by politician clans, traditional politicians, and organized groups.

My premise was simple. Current surveys (Pulse Asia and SWS) say that the Noynoy Aquino leads the presidential race by around 13%-19% and some analysts have started declaring a "run away" and "landslide" victory for him. My position is that surveys (assuming one accepts SWS and Pulse) are based on a 100% voter turnout through their sampling system. Using 50M registered voters as a base and assuming that there is a 100% voter turnout, then a 15% lead (computer as 7.5M votes) really looks formidable and looks like a landslide.

But what will be the voter turnout on May 10? Many analysts use 80% turnout as a base because this was the turnout in previous presidential elections. Using this figure, a 15% lead (15% of 40M votes = 6M votes) still looks formidable. The problem with these analysts is that they are plucking figures from thin air. Nobody knows how the sift from manual to automation will affect voter turnout because no country in the world has tried to do it in this magnitude and pace. Will it be 80%? 70%? 60%? or even 50%? My thesis is that it will go down dramatically because of long lines, automation fright, poor voter education, spoiled ballots, and other imponderables.

If voter turn out goes down to 50% (25 million end up voting) , then a 15% lead in the surveys will only be worth around 3.75 million votes. Suddenly the gap doesnt look impossible.

And I have not included the 9%-10% undecided votes in the equation.

Now factor in the Iglesia ni Cristo and El Shaddai endorsement which is estimated to be around 2-4 million votes and we have a new ballgame.

The third and final game changer is the ground forces. The key questions are: 1) How long will Gibo Teodoro be able to hold on to the still formidable LAKAS-KAMPI machinery given the paucity of funds and the obvious deals that many local candidates have entered into with either the NP or LP? and 2) Who are the organized groups such as the Makabayan and bigger party list groups backing?

The interplay of these three game changers is such that a low voter turnout strengthens the hand of the INK and El Shaddai and the organized groups (political clans, traditional politicians, the MAKABAYAN, and other party list groups). We will know the INK and El Shaddai endorsements in the coming days. But voter turnout and command votes come into the equation only on election day. So who will win on May 10, 2010?