The Philippines is an island nation in the western Pacific (or in Southeast Asia). The population is about 92 million (2010). English and Filipino are the official languages. The country is holding legislative elections on Monday, May 13.
The legislature is a bicameral Congress. The upper house is the Senate. It consists of 24 members chosen in staggered terms of 6 years; 12 senators are elected every 3 years. The whole country is one constituency and voters may give up to 12 votes in an election. The current composition is: Lakas-CMD 3, Liberal 4, Nationalist 5, with the rest spread out on several smaller parties and independents. Party-switching and forming new parties and alliances is quite common in the Philippines, so the situation except for the largest parties may be difficult to ascertain at any given moment.
The lower house is called the House of Representatives. It has 287 members elected for 3 years. 230 members are elected in single seat, first past the post constituencies. 57 are elected through a closed list proportional system, with the whole country as one constituency. The threshold for PR seats is 2%, but after a court ruling in 2009, no party may hold more than 3 seats and no party winning seats in the FPP seats can win PR seats. This means that the PR section may not be completely filled in every election. The composition of the House after the 2010 elections: Lakas 107, Liberal 47, Nationalist 26 and the rest spread out on smaller parties, regional groupings and independents.
The major parties:
Lakas-CMD: Originally a coalition, now a party. Centre-right Christian/Islamic Democrats. It has seen many splits over the past 3 years.
Liberals: Liberal, centrist. The party of the Aquinos, and the largest force in Philippino politics.
Nationalists: Conservative, center-right. The oldest party in the Philippines, it has now become much less powerful.