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Filipinos Lack Faith in Country's Violence-Plagued Elections

by Julie Ray

Majority expects vote-buying to occur in Monday's midterm ballot


PRINCETON, NJ -- Politics in the Philippines isn't just a dirty game, it's also deadly. With only four days left until the country's midterm congressional and local elections, about 30 candidates have been murdered, along with scores of supporters, relatives, and other politicians. Just last week, Philippine officials said a mayor of a northern town was shot to death while another narrowly escaped assassination. As terrible as these numbers are, so far they are lower than the death count of more than 150 during the 2004 election.

Fierce partisan rivalry, violence, and accusations of corruption and election tampering are familiar themes throughout Philippine election history; for example, after the violence-marred 2004 presidential election, President Gloria Arroyo survived election-tampering allegations and impeachment attempts. This backdrop helps explain why only 27% of Filipinos surveyed in the 2006 Gallup World Poll of the Philippines said they have confidence in the honesty and integrity of their elections. Among the institutions tested in the survey, confidence was lowest in the electoral system. A similar pattern is evident in emerging democracies in the region.

Most Filipinos appear to expect some cheating in this year's elections. An April 2007 Social Weather Stations survey of registered Filipino voters found 69% expect vote-buying to "definitely" or "probably" happen, and 53% expect cheating in the vote-counting (which is done by hand). However, the pollsters also noted that expectations of voting irregularities are higher compared with what they'd found in previous campaigns in 2004, 2001, and 1992.

Filipinos' apparent cynicism coincides with broader pessimism about what they perceive as endemic corruption in both business and government. In response to the 2006 Gallup survey, 74% said corruption is widespread in business and 81% said the same about their government. Both percentages were not atypical of countries in the region.

Survey Methods

Results are based on face-to-face interviews with 1,200 adults, aged 15 and older, conducted in March 2006. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±3 percentage points. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.


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