Voters’ Turnout Lowest in Years?

This year’s elections could have the lowest voters’ turnout in recent years, given the 77-percent turnout in 2004 and 85 percent in 2001

Posted by Bulatlat
Vol. VII, No. 15 May 20-26, 2007

The voters’ turnout in the May 14 mid-term elections could be the lowest in six years and this can be attributed largely to widespread disenfranchisement of voters throughout the country.

Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chair Benjamin Abalos, Sr. estimated the turnout at 75 percent nationwide but other reports showed a 65 percent turnout, a drop compared to previous polls. Several precincts in the National Capital Region have reported as low as 50 to 60 percent turnout.

If this is the case, this year’s elections could be the lowest in recent years, given the 77-percent voter turnout in 2004 and 85 percent in 2001, the Center for People Empowerment in Governance (CenPEG), an independent political study group, said.

Reports of partial monitoring and documentation of yesterday’s elections showed that possibly hundreds of thousands of voters were directly disenfranchised with the names of many legitimate voters missing in master lists or names found in other precincts. There were also complaints of missing precincts, many master lists unreadable, delayed opening of polling precincts, and of voting marked by long queues thus preventing many voters from casting their ballots.

Other voters experienced harassment not only from supporters of candidates but also from military and police personnel. There were reports of voters being forced to vote for certain party-list groups supported by the government.

This is the initial assessment made by the Center for People Empowerment in Governance’s (CenPEG) Policy Study, Publication and Advocacy (PSPA) program based on reports it received from various independent poll watch groups and news monitoring.

The reports mainly came from the nationwide Task Force Poll Watch (TFPW) of Party-list groups, the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV), Kontra Daya (Against Fraud), monitoring by the University of the Philippines College of Mass Communication (UP CMC) student volunteers, foreign observers’ missions as well as partial field reports from 30 provinces.

In Baguio City, Quezon City, Manila, Caloocan, Bulacan, Nueva Ecija and other areas, many voters complained about their names missing in master lists while groups of voters were harassed and prevented from going to their precincts. Election-related tension and violence in many provinces, particularly in Mindanao, discouraged many voters from going to the polls, other reports said.

On the other hand, many of the 39 electoral fraud incidents reported partially by the PPCRV involved disenfranchisement.

While accounts about military interference on the scale that took place in 2004 have yet to be received, there were reported incidents of military and police forces involved in voters’ disenfranchisement on election day. In at least two baranggays (villages) in Guimba, Nueva Ecija many voters were told by government soldiers not to vote for Bayan Muna (People First), AnakPawis (Toiling Masses) and Gabriela Women’s Party and to vote instead for Bantay party. Bantay, said to be a creation of Malacañang, has former Brig. Gen. Jovito Palparan, named by both state investigators and foreign groups as accountable for several cases of extra-judicial killings, as its first nominee. Similar incidents were also reported in Baguio, Batangas, Cavite, Laguna, Leyte, Albay, Sorsogon, the two Camarines provinces, Eastern Samar and several provinces in Mindanao.

Spokespersons of the groups fear that with results of voting in the party-list election remaining unaccounted for in independent quick counts 24 hours after counting had begun, they could be vulnerable to cheating particularly by pro-government operators.

Meanwhile, only 20 percent or 71,668 of about 504,110 registered overseas absentee voters (OAVs) were able to exercise their right to vote.

With recent surveys showing 70 percent of Filipinos believing that there will be massive fraud in the mid-term elections, there is a high probability of an increasing number of the electorate staying away from the polls. This pessimism and other factors would explain the possible low turnout in the recent polls. CENPEG/(

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