Discuss the processes involved in local government elections.
Local Government elections are the basis of democratic society today, sometimes the higher levels of government have no effect on the average individual; however Council Tax, services and amenities are essential to individuals. In addition, the local government is essential for providing financial assistance for housing, students and determining whether social assistance should be meted out. These are all important aspects of everyday living, in addition, local government elections have a direct effect on whom is elected in the central government. Therefore it is highly important to the basic political theory that the individual has a direct say in the election of good governance. Locke said instead of giving up the right to do absolutely anything to the sovereign entity, the rational man would put these rights in the hands of a government that holds the good of the people as supreme. Locke did not believe that man gives up all these natural rights, but each person retained rights that were regulated by a political government, to ensure a person would not use their rights in a way that would harm the rights of others. Locke’s version of rights was one of the first models of inherent rights to life, liberty, freedom and property, where the government was there at the will of the people and benevolent in nature. The essential right that the individual retains is the right to in modern society directly elect those officials that govern their daily lives, as well as ensure the accountability for the funds that the individual metes out to ensure that basic amenities are provided.
In recent years the participation in elections has reduced, therefore the processes of voting at a particular station on a particular day have been expanded for the modern day lifestyles. This includes mail-in ballots and e-ballots.
The Government is committed to modernising and encouraging people to engage in the democratic process and this includes the way elections are conducted. We have taken several legislative steps in recent years to modernise and simplify electoral law and processes so that they take account of and are more relevant to modern lifestyles and habits.
The problem with such processes is that it creates a problem in respect to accountability and monitoring of fair voting practices. The problems with re-enabling the electoral process will not affect local governments UK wide until after 2006, but the European Parliamentary and Local Elections (Pilots) Bill, introduced into Parliament on 17 September. The Bill, subject to Parliamentary approval, will allow pilots of innovative voting methods at next year’s European Parliamentary and combined local elections. These processes at the local government level will allow for the increased participation in the electoral process, which play a very important indicator for the possible outcome of general elections. Also the campaigns at the local level play a very important role for what is in the interest of the public and hinge around the issues of the general election. Therefore the higher the participation at the lower level, the better the indication of importance at the higher levels of politics and the elected parliament provides what the citizenry want.
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The process of local elections are the providence of the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM) and it is at this level that the lower echelons are allowed to use new techniques in promoting participation in the electoral process. This is a very important act because it is a result of the UK’s decentralisation of government, which ensures that the central government’s agenda does not overrun the wants and needs of specific areas of the nation, rather it allows more leeway for local governments right from the election process to take control:
The ODPM is taking forward at a local level the Electoral Modernisation Pilot Programme, inviting local authorities to trial new ways of voting and counting votes… [which is part of] the Government’s policy for increasing participation in democracy via information and communication technologies, and invites comments [from the electorate] on the recent consultation paper ‘In Service of Democracy’.
The democratic system has realised that it needs to modernise from the bottom up, rather than the top down approach. This has been a major change in the political development of less developed countries (LDCs); however, finally it has been recognised that it needs to be done at all governmental levels. Whereby an important part of development politics surrounded the introduction of MNCsinto LDCs and the technology introduction, education to use the technology, and job creation would have a trickle down effect to boost the economy of the country, which in turn would pass on a better standard of living to the average person. However, the reality of the situation has arguably turned out to be quite different. Therefore the traditional globalisation economics have not provided the development to LDC as originally believed, instead, some economic theorists such as Krugman have suggested that these theory are not just misguided but incomprehensible. Rather a bottom-up approach has been suggested, whereby greater participation on the bottom levels that promotes a better development of economics and higher amounts of participation of higher levels of the democratic process. This theory has promoted the decentralisation movements of local governments, hoping that the electoral process can be advanced at the lower levels. This is being promoted with vengeance by parliament with the audits of political participation:
Like the first audit, it measures the nature and extent of the UK public’s political engagement through MORI’s annual Political Engagement Poll. It also reviews how political engagement has changed over the past 12 months.
We have focused on six key political engagement indicators for this update audit. These are knowledge and interest, action and participation, and efficacy and satisfaction.
Therefore the political processes of local government in constant change at the moment, with the powers in respect to elections and how they are controlled is growing through the decentralisation movement in the UK. In addition, this is modernising for the good, taking in new political approaches and theory which recognises that political participation from the bottom up is essential to ensure that political and economic development evolves for the better.
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