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LALIT retrospective 2005: DEMOCRACY: Lalit victory in getting village elections re-instated


When the previous Government, in a long and sneaky scenario, postponed and then finally actually abolished village elections, LALIT ran a well-planned, long-term grass-roots campaign for the re-instatement of this important form of democracy.

No other political formation was in favour of re-instating these elections. The main reason is that this form of democracy has never been controlled from above by the capitalist-funded parties. These parties have only ever been able to corrupt the countryside democracy at the level of the District Council representatives from each village council, and they were finding this corruption increasingly more discrediting. The WTO, and neo-liberalism in general, does not agree with this level of democracy either.

But Lalit ran a multi-levelled campaign which ended in victory. The Labour Party came up against too much support in its base for the Lalit line and had to concede. This helped Labour to win the elections.

How Lalit ran the campaign is that our members, in a totally decentralized way, paid personal visits to outgoing village councillors and to previous candidates who had lost, in a total of some 60 of the 140 villages. We organized formal meetings and assemblies for some 20 villages. One Village Council in the East resigned en bloc after our campaign, in protest; just one of their councillors, an ex-Lalit member turned paid agent of the MMM, remained on, after the end of his mandate. As part of the campaign, Lalit also wrote a letter to each candidate at the previous Village Elections. This was all in addition to nation-wide leafleting, a number of radio programs, and a few press articles. And of course, during the general election campaign, Lalit put a lot of emphasis on this demand.

The Lalit campaign shows that people are very attached to democratic traditions. Paul Berenger's ridiculous comments that the "village elections" were a non-event are just a "koze dekuyone" to try to minimize his anti-democratic abolition of the village elections. He says, as proof, that the turn-out was low. As though the turn-out in the Municipal Elections was any higher. 52% is a very reasonable turn-out for Village Elections, given that the Village Councils have had all their powers and budget whittled away over the years.

What is important now is to get more power to the Village Councils and an independent budget.