Saturday, February 28, 2015

In 2016, we should opt for an insurgent-president

I planned to vote for a well-known trapo in 2016, the one accused of high-level corruption. I listed down all his favorables, from the superficial one (he has the color of my skin ) and the substantial one (he promised to take on the most contentious issue of our time—inequality), The other contenders make my skin crawl—they are crooks who love playing holier-than-thou. Better the crook who may take care of the underclass and the vulnerable. . .
I am now having a change of mind.
The change of mind has nothing to do with domestic events and issues as these are too predictable and by-the-book. The reasons are external—the awesome spectacle of three leaderships that have been defying orthodoxy. Bold, unconventional, and not-your-standard-issue-politicians. We do not know how things will turn out, or what will be the final impact of their leadership on their governed. But in this time and place of too much orthodoxy, I think it is about time to elect a president not bound by politician conventions, like these three:
• The belligerent leaders of Greece
• Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan
• Jose Mujica of Uruguay
Maybe it is time for our country of conventional voters with conventional choices to elect an insurgent as president.
You may want to ask this question. Is not Mr. Abe a legacy politician, whose values, beliefs and creed have been shaped by the LDP, Japan’s establishment party which is the equivalent of the Lakas-NUCD then and the Liberal Party now?
When they say “ legacy politician” in the Asian context, the Number 2 example is Mr. Abe, after the princelings who have been ruling China just a generation after Mao and Deng.
The answer to that? True. Very true, rather. But what Mr. Abe is doing now, experimenting with economic policies that are aimed at lifting up Japan from its “Lost Decades” suggest policies that do not belong to the establishment. The mere fact that he appointed Haruhiko Kuroda, the former Manila-based head of the ADB as Bank of Japan governor (and bypassing the establishment candidates in the process) signaled one thing: he is not a prime minister stuck in orthodoxy.
The fiscal and monetary experimentations of Mr. Abe may fail. There are indications that they won’t succeed. But his break from the failed economic timidity of the past decades is not at all the stand of a establishment type. In many ways, Mr. Abe is an economic insurgent, a recycled leader with a new and bolder approach to governance. He would rather fail trying than just stick to same old, same old policies. The resoluteness of Abe and Kuroda in fighting the deflationary trap—despite harsh criticisms from conservatives across the globe—has been inspiring.
Did you hear about his efforts to put more women at the forefront of Japanese leadership and society?
Have you been reading about the amazing belligerency of the Greek leaders in their bailout talks with their Eurozone creditors?
Yanis Varoufakis, the finance minister appointed by Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, told the creditors in very firm terms that Greece cannot accept the harsh austerity measures that are at the heart of the creditors’ negotiating terms. The opposition to the current bailout terms, which imposed harsh austerity measures to achieve the harsher repayment terms of Greece loans, was the reason Greek voters rejected the timid leaders and opted for Syriza.
The ruling Syriza coalition has drawn the line: scrap the harsh austerity provisions, pare down the primary surplus condition in the bailout terms and we will sign. And the manner by which they have been standing up to the Eurozone overlords is a profile in courage.
A four-month deal with the creditors was struck. And the financial press called it a defeat, a humbling moment for the Syriza, Tsipras and Varoufakis. But it is not. Greece has avoided a credit cutoff and the harsh primary surplus requirement that is at the heart of the old agreement will be renegotiated after the lapse of the four-month bailout.
Can Greece successfully lower down the primary surplus target of 4.5 percent of GDP that the creditors forced on the Greek leaders who were defeated by austerity-wary Greek voters in favor of Syriza? That we don’t know. But the fight is definitely not over.
The symbolism of tie-less Varoufakis, his shirt also untucked, staring down on the Armani-clad bankers, was a sight to behold. It says: No More Austerity, No More Suffering for the Greeks, No More Runaway Unemployment.
Were the world to erect a real pantheon for our great, modern-day leaders, Jose Mujica of Paraguay would be high up in that pantheon. He shunned the presidential palace in favor of his ramshackle, single-story house in his small landholding, where real farming is taking place. He drives a 25-year-old Beetle, if he does not walk. Mujica’s clothes would make Varoufakis, a shabby dresser in the world of finance ministers and bankers, look like a GQ model.
Mujica, who was once a guerilla leader, has lost none of the idealism of his youth. His dream is to bridge the chasm between the economic classes – which in the first place is not as unequal as in emerging economies such as the Philippines and in large economies such as the US. At the UN and other forums, he has talked bluntly about the pursuit of material things and the destruction of the environment.
He has cut down the poverty rate in Uruguay, has chalked impressive economic growth, legalized cannabis and institutionalized same-sex unions.
Yet, the 79-year old former guerilla, insurgent to the last sinew of his body, keeps on dreaming of better things for his country and his people.
After electing orthodox, timid, uninspiring leaders cut from the same cloth for generations, Filipinos should now elect an insurgent as president. Bold, unpredictable, awesome and inspiring. And there is still time for that insurgent leader to appear and take all our votes.
[If the Smartmatic-PCOS machine will read our ballots correctly and transmit the precinct-results properly.]

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