The world in four elections: the Ides of May and the Philippines


People normally speak about the Ides of March but in the Roman calendar, every month had an Ides, which is to say a division point between the first and second half. In March, May, July, and October, the Ides are on the 15th day, but in every other month, they are on the 13th day.

This time round though, the Ides of May should be the ninth day of the month. That’s the day the Philippines went to the polls to replace President Rodrigo Duterte, who is term-limited.

The next big day in May, politically, is May 15, when Lebanon goes to the polls.

On May 21, there is the Australian election.

On May 29, Colombia has its date with the ballot box.

Each of these dates is significant in its own way but the Philippines marks a particular wave of change, one that is crashing over the political landscape. After a Pulse Asia poll put Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos at 56 per cent – and thereby best placed to win – pundits had to contend with something that could either be described as public cynicism or an astonishing communal loss of memory.

Why cynicism? Bongbong is the son and namesake of the dictator who ruled the Philippines from 1965 to 1986. Marcos Senior was ousted amid allegations of human rights abuses and industrial-scale corruption. Imelda Marcos, Bongbong’s mother, became a byword in the weird world of obsessive shoe consumption. And yet, the Marcos family has managed to politically rehabilitate itself, to the point that Bongbong won a landslide on May 9.

There does appear to have been a devastating communal loss of memory. More than half of registered voters were born after Marcos Senior was forced out, to quote every media outlet that has commented on the matter. Yes, but…what about the other half?

Don’t they tell their sons and daughters, nephews and nieces stories about the bad old days? Don’t they talk to each other?