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Single ticket: How about voting for president and VP together?

A key advantage of joint tickets is how they facilitate a common expression of policy agendas. For this reason, they contribute to more programmatic political debate and more effective governance. As they are a decision to cooperate in advance of the election, they can be seen as a “coalition of commitment” between the two candidates. 

By contrast, split tickets undermine cohesive government and tend to accentuate the personal and political differences between the two candidates. When the winning presidential candidate comes from one party and the winning vice presidential candidate comes from another party, the best that can be hoped for is a “coalition of convenience.” In other situations, of course, there can be open animosity between the two highest office-holders of the land.

A key underlying factor is the presence or absence of coherent political parties. With no overarching party or policy platform, candidates have an incentive to simply promote themselves as personalities, to the detriment of effective governance.

In the Philippines, political parties rarely display any strong degree of programmatic coherence or organizational capacity. They are often mere vehicles for the promotion of personalistic and clan interests. 

Since 1986, the Philippines has had an array of parties but cannot be viewed as a multi-party system per se. Many politicians regularly change parties and the parties themselves regularly change names. Political alliances are often transitory, based more on calculations of short-term electoral advantage than any clear ideological or programmatic principles. 

In a country with strong political parties, a split-ticket system may encourage the parties themselves to broker and enforce political bargains.

But in a country without strong political parties, such as the Philippines, a split-ticket system is likely to lead to particularly unstructured outcomes. Before the election, choices of running mates involve political bargaining among personalities and clans – with little, if any, attention to the forging of common policy objectives. After the election, there are few coherent party mechanisms to encourage adherence to whatever agreements have been forged.

The Philippines since 1986

In recent Philippine history, it has been the norm for presidents and vice presidents to come from different party groupings. A survey of the outcomes of the presidential elections since the promulgation of the 1987 Constitution reveals that in 3 out of 4 instances the result has been a split ticket:

The 2016 elections have been preceded by a process of fierce bargaining between potential presidential and vice presidential candidates. Parties count for little, as evidenced by the fact that 3 of the candidates for the vice presidency are all members of the same party (the Nacionalista Party). Two tandems involve candidates of the same party, two tandems combine candidates from different political parties, one tandem has been created outside of any political party, and one vice presidential candidate is running outside of any tandem. Time will tell what combination of candidates will take the top two offices, but the chances are high that they will come from different political groupings.

Unsurprisingly, most presidential systems require joint tickets for the election of the president and vice president. Even in Indonesia, where it is common to have presidents and vice presidents drawn from different parties, they run on a unified platform and are elected together. For example, current President Joko Widodo is from a different party (PDI-P) than his vice president from the Golkar Party. The previous president, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono was also from a different party (Partai Demokrat) than his vice president (again from Golkar). 

In sum, most countries with presidential elections have concluded that joint tickets are a better idea than split tickets. Perhaps the Philippines might consider such a change as well? –

Professor Benjamin Reilly is dean of the Sir Walter Murdoch School of Public Policy and International Affairs at Murdoch University in Perth, Australia.

Ramon C. Casiple is executive director of the Institute for Political and Electoral Reform, based in Quezon City.

Read the other articles in the “Elections: What PH can learn from the world” series: