Philippine Elections: Duterte Harry's (nearly) Clean Sweep?

Philippine Elections: Duterte Harry's (nearly) Clean Sweep?

You'd think that saying God is stupid and calling the Pope the son of a whore would be political suicide in a country as deeply Roman Catholic as the Philippines. You might also think it impolitic to joke about gang rape, compare yourself to Hitler, order your troops to shoot female rebels in their genitals, or unleash a war on drugs in which police and allied vigilantes have killed as many as 20,000 people, most without even a whiff of due process.

But if you thought that, odds are you aren't from the Philippines, where nearly 80 percent of the population still approves of President Rodrigo Duterte, who has done all of the above.


Elected in 2016 in a landslide upset, the former provincial mayor styles himself effectively as a man of common tastes and common sense, willing to dispense with liberal niceties (in both speech and policy) in order to get things done for people long neglected by the country's elites.

Critics point out that his drug war has normalized vigilantism and extrajudicial violence. His attacks on the press and political opponents, they say, are eroding a democracy that Filipinos fought hard to reclaim in 1986 from the lavish dictatorship of Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos. (For more on this, see our interview with Maria Ressa, who heads the highly respected Philippine online news organization Rappler.)

But his supporters point to his record on infrastructure, his pitiless approach to crushing the drug trade and crime, and his common touch—he sticks up for the poor, in particular for the millions of Filipinos who work abroad. His broadsides against the US, and his closer alignment with China have also struck a chord in a country where the long history of US colonialism and military presence is still viewed with some resentment.

That broad public support is likely to carry Mr. Duterte's allies to a sweeping victory in national mid-term elections that were held yesterday. In addition to picking 18,000 local government posts, voters across the country's 5,000 islands chose half of the deputies in the Senate, which is now likely to come under his control.

Until now, that body has mounted some opposition to Duterte, checking his worst instincts – but after the vote count is in, it likely won't serve that function any more. At the top of Mr. Duterte's agenda is a controversial constitutional reform that would decentralize power, while also potentially opening the way for him to get around term limits that would otherwise require him to leave office in 2022. (Rumors also abound that he's grooming his daughter, currently mayor of Davao City, to succeed him.)

Upshot: Despite his disregard for human rights and his questionable commitment to the most basic democratic norms, "Duterte Harry" enjoys the strong backing of most Filipinos for the same reason he's often criticized internationally: his ruthless effectiveness. After today, he will be in a position of even greater power still.

Building on its previous commitment, Walmart is investing an additional $350 billion in products made, grown and assembled in America - supporting more than 750,000 new jobs by 2030. This pledge will aim to avoid more than 100M metric tons of CO2 emissions, advance the growth of U.S. based suppliers, and provide opportunities for more than 9,000 entrepreneurs to become Walmart suppliers and sellers through Walmart's annual Open Call.

China's GDP grew a lower-than-expected 4.9 percent year-on-year in the third quarter of 2021, a whopping three percentage points less than in the previous period. It's a big deal for the world's second-largest economy, the only major one that expanded throughout the pandemic — and now at risk of missing its growth target of 6 percent for the entire year.

Normally, such a drastic slowdown would have put the ruling Communist Party in a tizzy. But this time, Xi Jinping knows this is the price he must pay for his big plans to curb rising inequality and boost the middle class at the expense of the CCP's traditional economic mantra: high growth above all else.

More Show less

Religious tension rising in Bangladesh: Clashes between Hindus and Muslims in Bangladesh have surged over the past week, leaving at least four people dead. After an image was posted on Facebook showing the Quran at the feet of a statue at a Hindu temple, Muslims burned Hindu-owned homes and attacked their holy sites. Both sides have taken to the street in protest, with Hindus saying that they have been prevented from celebrating Durga Puja, the largest Hindu festival in the country. Such acts of sectarian violence are not uncommon in Bangladesh, a majority-Muslim country where Hindus account for nine percent of the population. Indeed, as Eurasia Group's Kevin Allison recently warned, unverified social media content stoking inter-ethnic conflict is a massive problem throughout South Asia, where for many people Facebook is synonymous with the internet.

More Show less

Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Read Ian Bremmer's wide-ranging essay in Foreign Affairs that puts in perspective both the challenge, and the opportunity, that comes from the unprecedented power of Big Tech.

Hi, everybody. Ian Bremmer here on the road, something we haven't done very much recently, but will increasingly as we try to move through COVID. And I want to talk to you about a new article that I just put out in Foreign Affairs that I'm calling "The Technopolar Moment." Not unipolar, not bipolar, not multipolar, technopolar. What the hell does technopolar mean?

It means that increasingly big technology companies are themselves geopolitical actors. So to understand the future of the world, you can't just look at the United States, Europe and China. You need to look at the big tech companies, too.

More Show less

China gets away with a lot these days in Hong Kong, Xinjiang, and elsewhere. That's because over the past decade, its economy has experienced explosive growth, making it an indispensable trading partner for almost every country in the world. At the same time, China has been expanding its share of the global economy, and is now set to overtake the US as the world's biggest economic powerhouse in the near term. We take a look at China's annual growth rate and share of the global economy based on GDP over the past decade.

The European Union is, for better or worse, the most ambitious experiment in human history in institutionalized multinational cooperation. Its success depends on the willingness of its members to abide by its rules.

In recent years, the populist-nationalist governments of former Communist bloc members Hungary and Poland have flouted some of those rules in order to boost their own popularity with citizens suspicious of the EU's liberal values on issues like immigration and minority rights. In response, the EU has scolded these "illiberal" governments and threatened forceful action – so far without much effect.

The fight between EU institutions and Poland and Hungary has escalated.

More Show less

Jon Lieber, head of Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington, shares insights on US politics:

What is the legacy of Colin Powell?

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell tragically died of complications of COVID-19. He was the first Black Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the first Black National Security Advisor and the first Black Secretary of State. And he leaves a legacy of a long career, dedicated almost entirely to public service.

More Show less

Can this guy defeat Viktor Orban? Hungary's opposition movement of odd bedfellows has finally settled on the person they think has the best chance of defeating PM Viktor Orbán at the ballot box: Péter Márki-Zay, a politically conservative small-town mayor from southeastern Hungary, who beat out left-leaning European Parliament member Klara Dobrev in a weekend poll. Márki-Zay has a lot going for him: as a devout Catholic and father of seven it will be hard for the ultraconservative Orbán to paint him as a progressive threat, even as Márki-Zay reaches out to reassure left-leaning groups that he will protect LGBTQ rights. What's more, Márki-Zay has little political baggage: until recently he was a marketing executive. But can the relatively inexperienced Márki-Zay keep the various opposition factions happy? The stakes couldn't be higher: since taking power more than a decade ago, Orbán has deliberately made Hungary into an "illiberal" state, cracking down on the press, undermining the rule of law, and clashing with the EU. Bonus: if Márki-Zay stays in the news, you get to say "Hódmezővásárhely" the name of the city he currently runs.

More Show less

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter, Signal

GZEROMEDIA

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter: Signal

Colin Powell's legacy

US Politics

GZEROMEDIA

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter: Signal