Tag Archives: Elections

The Importance of Local Politics

If you walk up to someone and ask them to name the President of the United States, they’ll be able to answer your question in the blink of an eye. If you ask them to name their congressional representative or their senator, however, you might be faced with blank stares, and some people may be unable to answer. Ironically, in fact, as you ask people to name their local officials–their state senators or legislators, their city councilmen, and so on–they have a harder and harder time responding.

For a nation that was founded on the idea of citizens’ direct access to representatives, this lack of awareness about local officials is ironic. After all, while their jurisdictions may be smaller than that of presidents and senators, local officials arguably have more influence in people’s daily lives than commanders in chief. Of course, presidents and national leaders have much more of an ability to set the political agenda, but local officials have a tremendous power of their own in terms of how they deliver government services to citizens.

For example, does it matter more that the president signs a bill into law strengthening police forces, or does it matter more that your mayor and city council get to decide how to spend money on the police and how many officers patrol your neighborhood on a daily basis? And while senators may campaign on the importance of creating jobs, local officials play a role as well by offering incentives to attract new businesses to town and by passing laws, such as ordinances and zoning codes, that can determine what jobs are available in their communities.

This actually gives local politicians surprising influence during state or national elections. As a result of their work to provide government services to citizens, mayors, city council representatives, sheriffs, and other local leaders develop strong relationships with voters, which they can use to mobilize those voters in support or against particular candidates for higher office; therefore, mayors can offer state or national-level candidates important endorsements and help energize voters to go out and volunteer for them as well.

Local politics may lack the glamor and spotlight of national campaigns, but despite this, local politics play a pivotal role in the operations of the government and nationwide elections. President Ronald Reagan once remarked of America’s local communities, “That’s where miracles are made, not in Washington, D.C.,” and there are thousands of mayors, state legislators, sheriffs, and other local officials who would surely agree with him.

Elections Around the World

While America doesn’t need to worry about electing a new chief executive for another four years, in the rest of the world, election season is just getting started. Take a look at what’s happening on the campaign trail in France, South Korea, and Germany!

France

Under the French presidential election system, candidates must secure an absolute majority of the popular vote, but if no candidate does so, then a runoff election occurs two weeks following the first round of voting between the two candidates who garnered the most votes. This year, the first round of voting is scheduled for April 23 with a second round planned for May 7, as needed.

Although the full field consists of 11 candidates, three have emerged as frontrunners: Marine Le Pen of the Nationalist Front, who has drawn attention for her fiery populism and her disparaging remarks about immigrants as well as France’s religious and ethnic minorities; Emmanuel Macron of the centrist En Marche! (Forward!); and the center-right Francois Fillon of the Republicans.

Fillon was an early favorite to win, but his campaign suffered a nearly-fatal blow when the press revealed he had paid his wife a salary from public funds for a job she never had. Current polls now predict that Le Pen and Macron will make it to the runoff election, with Macron winning the final contest.

South Korea

Originally, the elections were scheduled for December 20, but after the impeachment and arrest of former President Park Geun-hye on corruption charges in March, the election was pushed up to May 9. In South Korea, presidents are elected by popular vote.

Although the race is only just beginning after the unexpected removal of President Park, the current favorite to win is Moon Jae-in, a former head of the leftist opposition party Minju, who has promised to rebuild the country after a decade of conservative leadership. His closest opponent, Ahn Hee-jung, trails him by 15 points.

Germany

Germany has a parliamentary system of representation where the members of the legislature, known as the Bundestag, elect a chief executive from amongst themselves; this often requires the formation of political coalitions. The voting mechanisms, however, are more complex. Each voter has two votes–one for a specific candidate for legislature and a second vote for a certain political party–which is designed to ensure that each party’s representation in the legislature is proportional to the amount of votes it received. The Bundestag elections are set for September 24, although it may take several days to form a coalition government after the polls close.

Angela Merkel, the incumbent chancellor, is up for re-election to a fourth term. She is favored to win as her party, the Christian Democrats, still lead in the polls, although it has been declining in popularity exactly as the Social Democratic Party under Martin Schulz has surged forward. At the same time, the fringe party Alternative for Germany (AfD) that is reminiscent of the alt-right in the United States has been hovering at about 10% support among voters. Key issues in the election are the economy, the future of the European Union, and the mass migration of Syrian refugees into Germany.