Politics must serve the people
THE EDITOR, Sir:
It has become fashionable - if not acceptably traditional - to announce delays in the calling of local government elections. In more recent years, the reasons for announcing a further delay (usually at the 'last hour') have shifted from passage of overall local government reform (traditionally the most reliable reason) to now awaiting a draft of new legislation from the chief parliamentary counsel for an extension in the period of service for parish councillors.
Still in keeping with tradition, such changes usually draw the ire of the opposition of the day, accusing the government of stalling, and so on.
That our legislators are fully aware that local government elections are, by law, to be held every three years is nothing new. However, history paints a picture of inconsonance or lack of appreciation for timely exercise of the democratic right of voters to determine who will govern their respective parish council divisions. The result? Unpopular councillors end up overstaying their welcome, while fresh, creative thinkers must await the people's will a while longer in order to make what will hopefully become a worthwhile contribution.
In all of this, there's the irresistible inference of skilful political engineering at work, where the governing party would find its own good reason to use local government elections as a litmus test to measure its popularity ahead of calling a high-stakes general election.
Timing, therefore, is everything. A political administration that senses an undercurrent of discontent among the electorate, or one that is planning on implementing austerity measures, or worse yet, an incumbent in fear of rejection should a major scandal unfold at the wrong time, must avoid such disasters - at all costs.
However, at the heart of it all, we lose the very meaning and importance of timely exercise of the people's right to elect their local leaders, thus making a mockery of democracy while promoting alienation, disenchantment and low voter turnout.
Take elected representatives in the United States, for example: They do not have this luxury of arbitrariness. Politicians and the population there knows that, since 1972 and every four years thereafter, the Tuesday between November 2 and 8 is reserved for them to make an indirect vote to choose a president and vice-president.
Similarly, US citizens know that mid-term elections for congressional and House representatives follow almost two years after a president is chosen. So, whether a sitting US president or elected representative bears the misfortune or good luck of decisions made during the political cycle, he and his party must face the electorate at the required times. I recommend this form of electoral conduct.
After all, politics must serve people, not permutations.