When the philippines returned to democratic rule in 1986, two images emerged of the new democracy that were vastly different and often hard to reconcile with each other. On the one hand, many observers commented on the great extent to which the new democracy appeared merely to restore the country's previous democratic regime from between 1946 and the establishment of martial law in 1972 (Anderson 1988; McCoy 1994, 19; Wurfel 1988, 323). In this earlier democratic period, traditional political clans dominated the country's policy-making institutions and successfully blocked equity-enhancing reforms. Over the course of these decades, elite-dominated parties mastered the politics of clientelism, in which local power brokers delivered vote blocs to national politicians in exchange for the granting of particularistic favors and the blocking of progressive legislation. Fears of a restoration in the mid-1980s appeared well founded, both in the significant presence in the reopened legislature of the country's most powerful economic elites and in the resistance to agrarian and other reforms by the new president, Corazon Aquino, herself a member of a prominent land-owning family. In many respects, democratization in the 1980s marked the return to power of traditional politicians, or trapos, as they are popularly called, a word that also means “dishrag” in the Tagalog language.

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