It looks like local government (LG) elections could become a sad affair in our much-exalted system of governance. In a democracy, every little part has their role to play. No institution is too big or too small. Are we reducing LG to a trifling that will not matter whether or not it exists?
LG elections are not far. As gewogs prepare for the upcoming elections in June, a worrying development is beginning to rear its head. The elections will not be fair on new candidates and those without money.
Campaigns will cost money. But the government has repeatedly refused state fund for LG elections. Political parties and thromde candidates get state support. It is mind-numbingly difficult to comprehend why LG candidates should be refused state support.
What could happen is that people with financial resources will push those who haven’t out of the game because campaigning is an expensive affair. The incumbents have an advantage of having been in the place already. They do not have to campaign hard like others who enter afresh.
Lack of state support will particularly hit young graduates who wish to contest in the election because most likely will be cash strapped, and they will have to stand against better-known individuals who have held the office already.
Local leaders have been recurrently asking the government for state support because without it elections will not give the voters choice of candidates. Competent, qualified and deserving candidates will be forced to withdraw from the race. And this is not a good thing to happen in a democracy. If the government stands its ground and denies state support to LG elections, there is the real danger of setting an unhealthy precedent.
In a decentralised administration system, every constituent part is important. LG being an institution closest to the voters, its importance cannot be overrated. The argument that LG elections should receive state support holds water and should, therefore, be urgently considered.
It is clear that the government has some clean up jobs to do before the upcoming LG elections. The process will take long because the issue will have to go through the Parliament. But early work will straighten things and ensure that later elections will give candidates vying for LG seats a fair ground to contest.
LG elections deserve state support. We must give it.