Presidents and administrations come and go, but political parties remain

PEACE-MAKER

Jose de Venecia Jr.
Former Speaker of the House

As part of our continuing effort to promote dialogue, understanding and cooperation in Asia and the international community, we in the International Conference of Asian Political Parties will conduct this year special conferences highlighting the crucial role of political parties in nation building and in contributing to peace and prosperity in our region and around the world.

The first will be on “Asia’s political development through political parties” to be held in Seoul in late September, co-hosted by South Korea’s ruling People Power Party, led by current president Yoon Seok-youl, and by the Democratic Party, the party of former President Moon Jae-in.

Another will be on “Security and cooperation: Role of political parties” in Baku, Azerbaijan in late November, to be hosted by the ruling New Azerbaijan Party led by President Ilham Aliyev.

We will also hold our 11th general assembly in Istanbul in early November, to be hosted by the ruling Ak Parti and which will be graced by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and other senior leaders of the party and the Turkish government, like Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu and Culture and Tourism Minister Mehmet Nuri Ersoy.

We are privileged to serve as founding chairman and chairman of the standing committee of the International Conference of Asian Political Parties since we founded and launched it in Manila in September 2000.

From some 40 political parties which attended its inaugural in Manila about 22 years ago, our organization now represents some 350 ruling and opposition parties from 52 countries in Asia, including the major political parties from our country.

We have always advocated the building of strong political parties. In our much earlier column, we said the following:

“After decades as a politician and political party founder, we have spent these past 12 years just observing the workings of partisan politics in our country.

We are saddened that our fragmented political system still hampers our collective ability to focus on national purposes and pursue national goals.

We continue to be governed, not by principled parties, but by self-interested factions. Venality and parochialism still characterize our political culture. And every time a presidential term ends and a new one begins, we seem to start all over again.

We can’t keep playing this game of faction over and over. East Asia and the entire world around us are fast-changing.

Indeed, unlike many countries in Asia and in other regions like North America and Europe, we in the Philippines still have much work to do to strengthen political parties in our country.
Our country’s weak party system has reduced political parties into mere vehicles to advance one’s political ambition. It has diminished the important role of political parties in national development and international relations.

Our weak party system has also turned our election campaign into a popularity contest, a competition of name recall, celebrity status, and/or political pedigree, instead of a battle of policies and programs.
The absence of a strong party system has also contributed to perpetuating traditional electoral machineries, like vote-buying and vote-selling, as well as political dynasties in our country.
To start the long-delayed and much-needed process of building a solid party system, perhaps the next Congress may enact a bill providing public funding for political parties that demonstrate broad national support, as a way of reducing their unhealthy dependence on interest groups for election campaign contributions.

It is also a way of levelling the political playing field and dramatically reducing political corruption. Far more inimical is the intrusion into the political system of criminal syndicates that deal in illegal drugs, gambling, or smuggling which reportedly finance candidates for national and key local positions.
Other proposed reforms like reverting to the two-party system are noteworthy but would certainly be a protracted, even acrimonious, exercise as it will entail amending the 1987 Constitution, which enshrines the multi-party system.

Political parties are important instruments to carry out our nation’s socio-economic and political agenda, promote people’s aspirations and participation, build political consensus, and even present alternative solutions to issues and challenges facing our country.

Thus, as part of any thorough-going political reform, we need to build strong political parties in order to institutionalize and stabilize political decision-making. After all, presidents and administrations come and go, but political parties remain.

Political parties can and must also complement the efforts of governments and parliaments in advancing common causes besetting the global community such as combating terrorism and violent extremism, battling climate change and environmental degradation, fighting poverty and diseases, reducing geopolitical tensions and conflicts, among others.”

 
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