Fostering the power of ‘Local Democracy’

Elections have always excited people, although some surveys showed apathy among the younger members of the society. This is likely to reverse this year, given the fact a more-than-usual number of people of Indian origin have entered the field.

The Indian community, which is likely to account for about 80,000 votes throughout the country, has thus far been somewhat indifferent towards politics, largely supporting one of the major parties. In a number of constituencies which account for a large number of Indian population, especially Mt Albert, Mt Roskill and Manukau East in Auckland, the winning candidates have drawn their strength from the community.

Important, not critical

Elections are just one part of the network of institutions (like honest courts) that need to be in place for democracy to work properly. Without those institutions, voting sometimes seems, at least in the short term, to make things worse.

In the history of New Zealand polity, never has there been an election in which so many candidates of Indian origin had sought to run for the public office as it is in the ensuing Local Government election. With a record number of candidates of Indian, Pakistani, Sri Lankan and Fijian origin, this would be the largest contingent representing people as Councillors and Local Board Members in their respective Wards and of course the District Health Board.

Abiding interest

The reason for such an unheard of interest in politics is not far to seek. With the increasing number of people from these countries migrating to New Zealand in recent years, it is natural that there would be a rise in the number of people with political ambitions. Besides, unlike Australia, everyone with a permanent residency status has the right to vote. An increasing number of people across the Auckland Region believe that the South Asian communities have grown over the years and hence deserve adequate representation in local affairs.

These factors have brought about increasing interest of these migrant communities in national and local politics.

Veritable platform

There are many who believe that City Fathers and Mothers, elected as Councillors and Local Board Members (not to forget the Mayor) are far more important in the immediate context of life in the neighbourhood than lawmakers in the Federal context. While the Central Government is all too pervasive, its local counterpart is more specific to our daily lives.

From a futuristic point of view, the new interest being shown by the Indian community in local politics augurs well with the integration of smaller Councils, the need to foster Sister-City relations with important cities in India and a host of other emerging opportunities.

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