Municipal elections postponement


The Covid-19 pandemic has served as a convenient reason, excuse or pretext to do a lot of things on the quiet, such as emergency procurement of medical supplies or passing stringent legislation. But in the case of municipal elections it is a weak argument, and their postponement is not warranted.

First of all from the point of view of the Covid problem. Currently there is partial lifting of restrictions. Even if they are still in place by the time the elections are due to be held, that will be relatively less onerous than holding general elections because only about half the population is concerned. The conditions in the voting centres are as it is normally strictly regulated, with only one voter at a time entering the room where voting is taking place. The officers too have ample space to sit at the stipulated distance away from each other. In other words, social distancing is more possible in that set-up.

Furthermore, voters do not come en masse, and this is another point that favours the holding of the municipal elections. Besides, as they enter the voting venue, they can be made to use sanitiser and also the wearing of their masks properly be ensured by an officer or staff posted there for that purpose.

What is of more concern, however, is that fact that the opportunity must be given to people to express themselves. Their representatives in Parliament are sometimes being debarred from asking questions or seeking clarifications on burning matters using all kinds of excuses and devices. If representatives cannot speak or probe, surely the people must be allowed to send their own signal to the authorities, which is what municipal elections would allow them to do. The circumstances are calling for such a move.

This might also be an occasion for the authorities to monitor people’s behaviour as regards the public health measures, and make sure they comply during the voting. At the same time, this may also be a solid opportunity to distribute fact sheets about the pandemic, or perhaps even consider playing out taped messages at regular intervals about Covid appropriate behaviour. In communication repetition is a powerful reinforcing tool, and when associated with a major event such as municipal elections it can be an impressive reminder.

This in fact may be particularly needed at this point, because as has been opined by the relevant experts and serious observers, there is a third surge or wave that is probably in the making. The numbers of cases being detected either daily or within days of each other clearly show that the virus is circulating in the community. The reasons are not far to seek. Many people are still defaulting on wearing the mask properly or keeping safe distance. There are ground reports of people refusing to use hand sanitiser or wear mask when shopping at the smaller corner outlets – but the vendors are being very strict and insist on the protocol being followed, otherwise the customer is turned away. There are also reports of people entering religious places furtively and again there defaulting on the protocol. Now all this is very concerning, and it is therefore no surprise that cases are mounting.

If we want to avoid a third wave and yet another lockdown, we all know what we have to do. So, let’s do it!

* Published in print edition on 11 May 2021

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