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Whither LG elections?

Comments / {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}} Views / Saturday, 24 February 2018 00:00


It is becoming overwhelmingly clear that politicisation has ruined the achievement of the key objectives of an LG election. For example, in the process of garnering votes, one party was solely exploiting the image of its charismatic political leader; another party was hammering out its exclusive power to allocate funds for local development; another party was taking advantage of the country’s Executive President while still another party was begging for power by labelling the two major parties as thieves. 

No party stressed on their plans to develop the wards and ultimately the whole election process costing billions of tax payers’ money merely produced a so-called ‘red light’ to the governing party leading to a setback in the country’s economy with rumblings of political instability.

If the major objective of holding an election was to feel the pulse of the voter, such objectives could have easily been achieved at a much lower cost through robust, independent ‘opinion polls’ conducted by esteemed organisations as regularly carried out in other countries. Once begun, such opinion polls will become acceptable to the people over the years.

In addition, the complexities involved in the imported mixed voting system have sent the Election Commission in to a tailspin! For example, several overhang situations arising from voter results have caused the already excessive number of 8356 to increase further.

What about the excess that can arise when going to meet the 25% women requirement? It will surely add insult to injury leading to voter expectations going haywire. On the contrary, local council rates and other taxes will have to be raised to maintain this coterie of unproductive politicians, who will in competition, enrich themselves via bribery and corruption!

Why are the simple voters allowed to be taken for a ride by a bunch of power-seeking politicians in a country where media freedom is entrenched? To use a pun, we must ‘hang’ the perpetrators of this imported mixed voting system, creating hangovers for the voters with the resultant overhangs!

In this scenario, the best solution to meet the objective of facilitating grassroots level development of a ward is to depoliticise the local govt. election and follow the gamsabha system to attract honourable and helpful persons like retired teachers, JPs, and other socially acceptable individuals from each ward to contest.

The Election Commission shall lay down the eligibility criteria for applicants. In the meanwhile, concerted action must be taken to improve the public service, judiciary, and the police service through proper training and effective deployment to minimise voters seeking outside assistance to meet their needs.

The explicit features of a depoliticised election over and above the positive features of the mixed Voting’ system can be enumerated as follows.

1) The advent of independent facilitators at ward level will guarantee the achievement of the real objectives of LG elections.

2) A very simple and straightforward election process with a minimal cost burden to the taxpayer is ensured.

3) The exact number of members to be elected to each ward is predetermined by the Elections Commission without overhangs.

4)) Election results can be released early.

5) Post polls violence and attendant wasteful expenditure such as tamashas and lighting fire crackers will be zero or negligible.

6) Bargaining ward membership for money will not arise.

7) Elections can be held island wide or in instalments.

8) Abuse of Govt. resources such as vehicles and manpower will not arise.

9) The Govt. machinery and the citizenry in general can function as usual sans any stability issues.

In the case of provincial and general elections, the simple alternative is to replace the obnoxious preference voting system with merit-wise nomination lists and adduce equal value to votes at provincial and national level as the case may be. I have dealt with the ‘bolts and nuts’ of this solution in my previous submissions to the press and the relevant authorities.

No doubt, to achieve this transformation, a strong Elections Commission, a patriotic political will, and an unbiased media culture with the country’s development at its heart to educate the public are imperative. Let us learn from the ‘mixed-voting’ experiment.

Bernard Fernando


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