Political Parties in Nation-Building

Manila Bulletin, April 13, 2012 | Go to article overview

Political Parties in Nation-Building


MANILA, Philippines - The recent report regarding the organization of the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA), a merger of VP Binay's PDP Laban and former President Estrada's Partido ng Masang Pilipino or PMP, and Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile's remarks about the new coalition as the "David" which will be pitted against "Goliath," referring to the ruling Liberal Party, are reminders that the campaign season is just around the corner. And for political parties, which have remained dormant during the years in between, also, a call for them to gear up - agree on criteria for selecting candidates, organize structures for nation-wide grassroots campaign, and map out the logistical requirements.

Some may not be aware that many of our political parties have well-crafted party platforms. But these are primarily used as documentary support during the registration at Comelec. In fact, they are only recited by candidates during special issue-oriented forums, primarily held in the cities and on university campuses. Other than these rare occasions, statements of party ideology gather dust on the shelves of party members, many of whom are unable to explain the relationship of the party platform to the objective of the campaign. That political parties in developing societies tend to lack deep roots and are weakly institutionalized, have been shown by scholars who argue however that these structures are vital in shaping the relationship between the state and society.

Today as in many developing societies, all candidates for political positions are mandated by law to register under a political party. They could run as independents but they have a greater chance of winning under the support of a party. The reality, however, is that the party primarily serves as their launching pad during the campaign. After election, the party becomes a forgotten entity, until the next campaign period. Except in some countries where legislation mandates budgetary allocation for political parties, the latter are primarily funded from donations by their leaders or wealthy individuals.

Dr. Jose Abueva, former UP president and professor emeritus in political science, recognizes the critical role of political parties in leading change and reform of our political system. …

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