WHETHER we like it or not, the election fever is now escalating to its boiling point, the excitement and the noise inviting us to come and enjoy the fun. This also means that unlawful acts or omissions applicable to the candidates had taken effect on February 13, 2019 for those seeking national offices (senators and party-list representatives) and will start to take effect on Friday, March 29, for those running for local posts (congressmen, governors, mayors, provincial board members and city/municipal councilors).
As had been pointed out in our previous discussion on this page, elections are a central feature of democracy. It is used to ensure popular support and legitimacy for those who make governmental decisions. Through it, the office seekers are given the people’s mandate, or the authority to carry out a policy or course of action, or the governance itself, following a victory in an election. On this note, it should not be ignored that governance is only as good as the leaders whom the people chose to serve them.
To us newsmen, politics consists of news that precedes and is climaxed by an election. Well, it may be underscored that election campaigns in our country, while introduced by the colonizing Americans (the Spanish conquerors, in contrast, simply appointed for us our governor-general, capitanes and alcalde mayores) and patterned after traditional democratic practices, operate under a peculiar set of social and political dynamics. Understanding these realities does not necessarily mean acceptance, but denying them would be courting disaster brought by fraud, fake news and trickery.
As the campaign progresses, the political season has moved from announcement of candidates into day-to-day accounts based largely on speeches, campaign sorties, and press releases from the candidates or political parties themselves. In covering the campaign, a good reporter tries to present the points the candidates think are urgent or important.
Undoubtedly, the media people play an important part in presenting the candidates in their simplest form, analyzing their programs and platforms of government, as well as highlighting their accomplishments as well as their failures, and educate the people so that they will make the right choice in casting their votes.
The candidate, which is the favorite subject, of course, in any election news story, is the focal point of every campaign. He/she is the primary decision maker and should already show leadership even on the campaign stage.
The electorate, on the other hand, usually frame their decisions based on their impression of the candidate. Such impression is usually shaped by media, the campaign, and the opposition. And various other informal channels, such as blogs and the social media.
It is important, therefore, for the candidate to communicate to the voters his/her reason for running, what he/she has done, and what he/she intends to do once elected to office. More importantly, a candidate must be aware of the issues facing him and his message should address such issues. Incidentally, in the latest poverty and governance opinion poll conducted by the Ateneo de Naga University, the survey says that about half, or 47 percent of Naguenos recommend that candidates in the upcoming elections must focus on addressing concerns on income and poverty.