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

Benjamin Reilly, Ramon C. Casiple

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

The Philippines is unusual in allowing “split-ticket” voting for its presidential and vice presidential elections. This allows the election of a president and vice president separately, rather than – as in most presidential systems – both offices being elected together.

This probably reflects American historical influence on the Philippines, as the United States once had this model. 

However, the US long ago moved to a single ticket for its president and vice president, leaving the Philippines as one of the only countries in the world to maintain separate voting for presidential and vice presidential candidates.

The reasons the US abandoned split tickets for presidential elections are relevant for the Philippines today. 

Originally, electors cast two ballots for president and whoever took second place in the tabulation became vice president. 

But this caused severe tensions between presidents and vice presidents, who often had very different ideas – perhaps most dramatically between President John Adams and Vice President Thomas Jefferson, who held office in the early years of the young republic (from 1797 to 1801). Indeed, the first American political parties emerged amid the fierce political contention of this era. 

When separate votes were permitted, candidates realized they could run together as a team for president and vice president as a way of enhancing national unity.

This was especially important in the presidential election that was held amid the tumult of the American Civil War. In 1864, Abraham Lincoln, a Republican, ran on a joint ticket with Andrew Johnson, a Democrat. They were the co-endorsed candidates of the National Union Party

By the late 1800s, the states began to place candidates for president and vice president together on the same ballot ticket, making it impossible to vote for a presidential candidate from one party and a vice presidential candidate from another party.

Today, some US states still elect their governor on separate tickets, and frequently from different political parties (for example, when Republican George W. Bush was governor of Texas, the vice-governor, Bob Bullock, was a Democrat). But in most cases, in the United States and elsewhere, a joint ticket is now the norm.

Coherence of political parties

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:

  • 1992: President Fidel Ramos was elected from a newly-created party coalition, Lakas-National Union of Christian Democrats (Lakas-NUCD), while Vice President Joseph Estrada ran as part of the Nationalist People’s Coalition (with Eduardo Cojuangco at the top of the ticket).
  • 1998: President Joseph Estrada was elected as the candidate of a new coalition, Laban ng Makabayang Masang Pilipino (LAMMP, or Struggle of Nationalist Filipino Masses), and had as running mate Edgardo Angara. Vice President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo ran with Jose de Venecia under the renamed Lakas-National Union of Christian Democrats-United Muslim Democrats of the Philippines (Lakas-NUCD-UMDP). Both De Venecia and Arroyo had the endorsement of President Ramos.
  • 2004: This is the only recent instance of the president and vice president coming from the same ticket. Even in this case, however, they were not technically party mates. President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo ran as a member of the once-again renamed Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats (Lakas-CMD) that joined a larger multi-party coalition known as the Koalisyon ng Katapatan at Karanasan sa Kinabukasan (Coalition of Truth and Experience for Tomorrow, or K-4). Her running mate, Noli de Castro, ran as an independent.
  • 2010: President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III ran under the banner of the Liberal Party, and his running mate Manuel Roxas II was defeated by Vice President Jejomar Binay of Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (Philippine Democratic Party-Strength of the Nation, or PDP-Laban). Binay ran as a guest candidate of presidential candidate Joseph Estrada, who was at this point running as part of his original party, the Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino (Force of the Filipino Masses, or PMP). The ultimate winner of the election was an informal “Noy-Bi” movement that urged voters to cast their ballots across party divides for NOYnoy Aquino and BInay.

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:

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