Shunning Traditional Political Parties, an Act of Political Suicide?


Senator Chiz Escudero created quite a stir when he bolted from the Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC) at a time when he was almost certain to bag the party’s nomination. But there are rumors that one of the reasons behind his decision was the alleged unwillingness of the “Boss” Eduardo ‘Danding’ Cojuangco to throw his full support, financially, to Escudero’s campaign. Escudero, on the other hand, claims that his decision to bolt the NPC stems from his belief that a candidate for president should be free from all the fetters of party loyalty and political debts.

Escudero’s announcement bolting the NPC was described by the media as a “bombshell”. A lot of people were stunned. However, when the shock subsided, the prevailing thinking among the media and politicians alike is that Escudero committed ‘political suicide’. Political pundits added that no candidate for president has ever won without a political party.

What is it about political parties that supposedly spell victory or doom for a presidential candidate?

Historically in democratic countries such as the US, Britain, and Western Europe, political parties were distinguished from each other based on their platforms. A party may be considered as left-of-center such as labour parties of Western Europe that are known for social reforms and welfare states, liberal such as the Democratic Party of the US, and conservative as the Tories of Britain and the Republicans of the US that are known for fundamentalist positions and neo-classical economic policies. A candidate for president or prime minister should thus belong to a political party that corresponds to his or her political beliefs and platform of government. An independent could run for the highest position in the country but he or she should clarify how his or her position and platform is different from the other candidates and parties. However, independent candidates rarely win because majority of the citizens belong and are loyal to a political party, which corresponds to their views, positions, and desired government. Thus, an independent candidate has the disadvantage of not having a mass base, a machinery for the campaign and poll watching, and of course, resources.

However, since the 1990s, the distinction between the different parties in Europe and the US has become blurred. The positions and policies of labour parties hardly differ from that of conservative parties. In Britain, Tony Blair was credited for bringing the British Labour Party toward the center with his ‘New Labour‘ politics, which adopted free market policies. From then on, the policies and positions of the Labour Party are hardly distinguishable from the conservative Tories. In the US, the Americans overwhelmingly rejected the free market, speculative, war-mongering policies of the Republicans under Geroge W. Bush only to realize that the Democrat-led administration of President Barack Obama is hardly no different. The free market policies are still there and so are the wars of aggression.

Backward countries such as the Philippines are much worse. Historically, there were two political parties competing for power, the Nacionalista and the Liberal parties. All candidates for president who have been successful belonged to either one of these parties. However, the positions, platforms, and policies of both parties were indistinguishable. Thus, candidates shifted from one party to the other if he or she felt that his or her political ambition was not being supported by his or her party. The late dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos ran under the Liberal Party in 1949 and won two consecutive terms at the House of Representatives, and in 1959 when he was elected senator. But when former president Diosdado Macapagal reneged on his promise not to run for reelection to give way to Marcos, the latter ran for president and won under the Nacionalista Party.

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