When it comes to local elections many of us are faced with having to vote for a political party even if we don’t support any of them because there are no other options. On the Ward Ballot, we end up voting for the candidate that the political party has put forward to represent them even if we don’t know them or don’t support them.
A ward may have up to 30,000 residents who are not consulted or given the opportunity to nominate who should be on the ballot in the first place. When you think about it, limiting the choice of who should govern us to party candidates is fundamentally undemocratic. Especially when you consider how and why they are chosen. Most political parties rely on panels and committees stacked with senior politicians to decide on the candidates standing in wards and for the municipal PR list.
In the end, very few people are involved in making the decision who should be on the ballot and the process is rife with gatekeeping, corruption and factional politics. After all, ensuring particular candidates are selected is a core way to build power within the party or to gain access to resources procured through corruption.
Existing career politicians are chosen again and again because they have influence and know the right people. They have the support of a dominant faction and are retained even when their performance is poor. Newcomers are parachuted in even if they don’t have much experience.
In fact, senior politicians are shielded from the threat of not being elected by local communities. You will notice that a Mayor, Deputy Mayor, Speaker and Member of the Mayoral Committee are never fielded as ward candidates. They are allocated positions high up on the municipal PR list. This ensures that these members are loyal and follow the party line when it comes to decisions affecting committees because they owe their seat entirely to the party.
It’s possible then to be a career politician without ever having to secure a mandate from a local community.
Considering how many candidates are fielded nationally by the majority parties and how rapidly candidates are selected, there is simply no way that their track record and values can be tested. The first time most residents get to know who the candidate is when the decision has already been made and their face is printed on a poster. As for residents, we are forced to choose the least worst person for the job.
What this means is obvious – when it comes to decisions about the Ward – party politicians are more accountable to the party than the community.