Last week’s local elections saw the Liberal Democrat and Plaid Cymru coalition swept from power in Cardiff and replaced by a new Labour administration. The election campaign was fierce at times, yet turn out on May 3 was just 34 per cent. Here, Nan Hu, a 22-year-old student from China studying in Cardiff for a masters in international journalism, writes about what she made of the election, politicians’ promises, and how a low turn out does a disservice to the “luxury” of democracy.
“It’s the end of the 2012 local elections. For the Liberal Democrats, it’s the end of their eight years ruling in Cardiff. They now have to lower their banners and muffle their drums as Cardiffians return to their Labour rivals.
It’s getting quiet. Living in Cathays, I’m not used to it now. After the election, we haven’t received anything from any of the parties, while before we were bombarded by all sorts of leaflets, letters and cards claiming if elected, they’d build a better, cleaner and greener community.
Even at the last minute, the Green Party squeezed one in promising lower heating bills, fair letting agency fees, the renovation of derelict community halls etc etc…
“What a fantastic propaganda show!” I must say. No irony.
I consider myself a passer-by, simply because as a non-European student I have no right to vote in this country. But I do care about what’s happening in this community and things that will affect my quality of living, such as rebuilding the bus station, which is supported by Labour, and renewing pavements, promoted by the Liberal Democrat Focus Team.
Now Cathays has three Labour councillors and one from the Lib Dems, we are all waiting to see real changes.
It’s reported that the level of turnout this year was extremely low. Some say it’s because of the damp weather, others say voters lost their trust and confidence in politicians.
My European housemates gave up their votes. Their vote tickets remain at the bottom of a pile of junk mail. They are also passers-by, but if I were them, I’d vote no matter how long I’d be staying here.
Maybe it’s normal for them to see a “dogfight” scene. I see democracy, a luxury, and something many parts of the world are fighting for.
I never believe that election equals democracy, but if your vote can get a man in power for eight years ousted, the democratic right you have cannot be more evidenced.
Looking at the leaflets we received, I’m amused.
There’s one letter from a Lib Dem member. At first sight, it feels like reading a letter from a close friend because it’s handwritten.
You might sympathise with him since there are so many households in the area. Did his hand hurt? Well, if you take a closer look, and compare the receivers’ names written on the envelope and the letter itself, it’s easy to feel the dents in the back of the envelope. It was their printer filled up with ink.
But at least they put some effort in. The issues the candidates raised are very relevant to us, which makes the local election very different from the national one.
No matter what gimmicks they used, they spent time on finding out local issues and connecting with the community.
If it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t remember that politicians could be a neighbour, and wouldn’t know that there are so many people who think that the streets are dirty, the pavements are dangerous and annoying if your shoes are soaked.
Knowing these local issues are on their agenda, you have hope, though it takes time to see the real effects.
All this is about more than a simple election. It goes beyond propaganda.
All I hope now is, under the new leadership, I’ll see a much cleaner, beautiful and vibrant Cardiff soon.”