Foresighting the May 2022 elections

The presidential election is scheduled one year from now. The pandemic has deeply affected everybody, rich or poor, urban or rural, young and old. This is a classic Vuca environment—volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous. The environment is full of signs and signals, but what do they portend?

Well, I did what any millennial might do—I googled it. The most interesting find was a set of “23 predictions” about the Philippines in 2022 presented by Quantumrun Foresight ( Apparently, this organization has been around for 10 years. It is a research and consulting firm that develops long-range strategic foresight to help business, government, and political organizations be aware and use future trends to survive and thrive.

Going through the 2022 “predictions” that Quantumrun has assembled from a wide database of sources, I extracted what I thought would be the “drivers” that may define the outcomes of the May 2022 elections. Readers may cross-tabulate the “high” and “low” states of any pair of the 10 drivers to generate various alternative scenarios.

The first Axis is “Climate of Social Media Facts and Opinion.” This has two drivers: (1) The extent to which the manipulation of public opinion by political groups could distort the vote of the electorate. Will there be a repeat of the crafty use of social media that got President Duterte elected and his enemies demonized? (2) The extent to which advocacy groups gain traction in getting stronger regulation of social media platforms. Will Facebook diligently clean the platform of coordinated inauthentic behavior from internal and external sources?

The second Axis is “Climate of the People’s Economic Vulnerability.” This also has two drivers: (1) The extent to which the pandemic will sharply increase unemployment, poverty, and hunger. Will the daily public display of people’s immiseration through community pantries color the elections? (2) The extent to which government infrastructure and election spending provide economic assistance and stimulus. Will the infrastructure funds be significant, and will campaign expenditures be widely distributed?

The third Axis is “The Structure of the Electoral Contestation.” For this axis, the drivers are (1) The extent to which contending political parties and candidates present the electorate with a bipolar presidential electoral contest. Will the 1Sambayan process acquire realistic moral authority and practical incentives to deliver a single opposition alternative? (2) The extent to which the youth vote is registered under existing pandemic conditions. Will the Eleksyon 2022 Koalisyon achieve its target of 7 million first-time voters and deactivated voters out of a possible 15 million potential additional voters?

The fourth Axis is “Internal Partisan Discipline.” Again, two drivers: (1) The extent to which the Duterte administration can maintain internal discipline as the President’s term end nears. Will government officials and political allies be increasingly emboldened to take issue positions opposite those of Mr. Duterte, and get away with it? (2) The extent to which the opposition can go beyond exclusivist and self-righteous collective self-perceptions to build workable electoral coalitions. Can the opposition learn from the debacle of the 2019 elections?

The fifth and final Axis is “The Climate of Grassroots Politics.” The two drivers are (1) The extent to which under-the-radar provincial and city/municipal elections usher in younger, new, competent, and upright political leaders. Will there be enough impetus for wider political recruitment and renewal of local political elites? (2) The extent to which the barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections will intensify and gain autonomy for grassroots politics from national politicians. Will these elections induce promising new political careers?

Predictions are a hazardous business. The emergence of research and consulting firms that produce futures-oriented services is critical to supporting more foresight-informed

decision-making. Predictions need not be accurate. The process of encouraging the practice is what is critical. Predictions that are way off the mark may serve as “intentional confidence-building mistakes” that encourage future-timid decision-makers to do better, becoming proficient in foresighting the future in addition to hindsighting the past.