Political upheavals in different parts of the world seem to be the norm this year. Is this the start of an era for “new” politics?
Trump is trumping.
In the United States, the meteoric rise of Donald Trump is causing shockwaves in the political landscape. Bold and brash, his plan to run for the US Presidency was a subject of jokes and openly laughed at a year ago by the political elite. However, Trump captured a large chunk of American voters tired and fed up by the status quo with his fiery rhetoric and straight talking strategy. Currently, he is the presumptive Presidential nominee of the Republican Party.
Filipinos flip to a new government.
In the Philippines, more than 16 million voters brought to power Rodrigo Duterte, the local version of Trump, who campaigned as the complete anti-thesis of the previous administration of Benigno Aquino III. Duterte, in his signature macho swagger and strongman style, ran on an anti-corruption platform and a vow to eliminate the country’s drug problem in three to six months.
The British exit.
The United Kingdom, in a landmark Brexit vote on June 23, chose to leave the European Union. Despite a very small margin, with a 52 percent leave vote as opposed to 48 percent remain, the Brexit has tremendous consequences for the future of both Britain and the EU, and even perhaps, the world. Brexit led to the resignation of Prime Minister David Cameron who emphasized that “the country requires fresh leadership to take it in that (Brexit) direction.” On July 13, Theresa May became the new Prime Minister, the second woman to hold such position in the UK, after Margaret Thatcher. May, in a speech upon her arrival at 10 Downing Street, vowed to honor Brexit and “forge a bold new positive role” for Britain. She immediately appointed leading Brexit campaigners Boris Johnson, David Davis and Liam Fox to work on the process of moving out of the EU.
The Australian hung parliament.
A week after the Brexit, Australia faced a hung parliament scare, with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and the Liberal-National Coalition claiming victory 8 days after the close of the federal election. The election came about as a result of Turnbull calling for a double dissolution of all seats in Australia’s House of Representatives and the Senate, in a bid to ensure the majority in both houses. While the Coalition won at least 73 seats in Parliament, political expert Monash Economou noted the “amazing amount of political damage Malcolm Turnbull has been able to inflict in a very short period of time as prime minister.”
While each of the countries mentioned have their unique domestic political circumstances, parallelisms that seem to give credence to the rise of “new” politics can be inferred.
The rise of Trump and Duterte, Brexit and even the slim win of the National Coalition in Australia seem to emanate from voters’ rejection of the status quo and the call for alternatives.
Trump and Duterte represent such alternatives for Americans and Filipinos. They want the shake up in the status quo that both leaders promise. Those who have been in the margins for so long want to feel the change in their everyday lives and not just hear about it in the economic figures being spouted by previous administrations. This is why Duterte won with his campaign slogan of “Change is coming” and why the rise of Trump can be attributed to his own “Make America Great Again” platform. The same can also be said of the UK’s Leave campaign slogan “Let’s take back control, vote Leave” which cuts through the arguments of the Remain camp and gives the perspective that Brexit will reposition the reins of determining Britain’s future back to its citizens.
To a certain extent, the slim margin of the National Coalition over the Labour Party in Australia also point to a rejection of the call of Turnbull to give the the ruling party with enough power to control the government.
The bigger picture here shows that while the political elite and the moderates continue to support the current political institutions, there seems to be an effort of citizens – angry at the status quo for leaving them behind – to reclaim power.
Perhaps the biggest manifestation of this, is the historic election turnout in the Philippines, at 81.62 percent, and in the UK during the Referendum at 71.8 percent. For Trump, survey shows that support for his candidacy cuts across social classes in the US.
Also astounding is the deeply personal way that voters treated the elections in the Philippines, with families and friends on different sides of the political divide openly debating on social media and in the comforts of their homes. The same can be said of personal debates and discussions on Trump. In the UK, while fears on the shocking effects of Brexit on the economy was peddled by the Remain camp, it is the deeply emotional pull of the immigration issue coupled with anxiety over jobs and nationalistic pride, amidst the backdrop of a refugee crisis in Europe, that pushed the Leave vote.
Do all of these foretell of a new world order in the next five years? Perhaps it might be too early to tell. But definitely, what has happened in the UK and Australia will impact the world and not just economically. The rise of strongmen such as Trump and Duterte definitely needs to be observed as it will define the direction of global politics in the months and years ahead.