Monday, 17 June, 2024

Successful Mayors Make It To The Top

Successful Mayors Make It To The Top

Mukti Rijal

The dynamics of both globalisation and localisation operating simultaneously in the contemporary world has wrought upon the structural changes in the distribution framework of the state authority. As a result, the state authority has been diffused and restructured substantively as a consequence of which locus of governance has made a shift and hence moved, among others, downwards to the local level. With this change, local governments in several unitary and federal countries have become resourceful and also endowed with competencies and mandates to exercise substantive legal authority leg. As a corollary to this, powerful politicians and top notch technocrats are found vying and competing for the mayoral positions at local government elections held in those countries.

When the Philippines enacted the local governance code to enhance and institutionalise the devolution of authority following the collapse of Marcos regime during the late 1980s, some recognised and active congress senators and prominent leaders made a line up to contest the polls for the municipal mayors. Among others, Rodrigo Duterte who was elected president in 2016 in the Philippines to succeed Benigno Aquinpo had been the Mayor in the Davos City of Mindanao Province of the Philippines. Duterte was one of the most popular presidents as he had garnered over 16 million votes or about 39 per cent of votes beating his closest rival by over 6.6 million votes. It was possible for him to garner such a big high popularity because of his track record as Mayor of the Davos City to control crime and tackle issues related with the Muslim insurgents.

Robust improvement
Duterte's approval rating had been relatively high throughout his presidency that ended recently despite criticism and opposition to his highhanded and repressive anti-narcotic drive. Boris Johnson, the incumbent British prime minister, had served as Mayor of London from 2008 to 2016. Johnson was elected London Mayor twice in 2008 and reelected in 2012. During his mayoralty, Johnson oversaw the preparations and hosting of the 2012 Summer Olympics and oversaw the cycle hire scheme, both initiated by his predecessor Ken Livingstone. As a mayor, he is credited with making a robust improvement in London city bus transportation system and running the Thames cable car. Johnson also banned alcohol consumption on much of London's public transport. Johnson's performance as the mayor of London had helped him atop the Conservative Party leadership and finally win the race for government leadership.

Former French President Jacques Chirac was the mayor of the famous city of Paris who had been a major force in French politics. He had opposed the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq and asserted French independence in the conduct of foreign policy. A seasoned politician, Chirac's career included two presidential terms, two stints as prime minister and nearly two decades as mayor of Paris. Charming, statuesque and a consummate politician, Chirac had made a strong presence in the French political arena for more than four decades. But he is best known internationally for his stint as mayor of Paris and final term at the Élysée presidential palace that proved extraordinary from start to finish.

Joko Widodo, the former mayor of Jakarta, became the first president of Indonesia in 2014 without a military background or close links to a former president. His success at the polls was viewed by many analysts due to his successful stint as the mayor of the city of Jakarta. In 2005 Jokowi, as a member of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle had , won election as mayor of Jakarta — the first person to be directly elected to that post. He was extraordinarily effective in reducing crime and attracting foreign tourists to the city. It is reported that his habit of making spontaneous visits to poor neighborhoods and his refusal to accept the salary for his public service contributed to his reputation for humility and honesty.

In 2010, Jokowi was re-elected mayor with more than 90 per cent of the vote. He was later ranked as the third best mayor in the world by the International City Mayors. Likewise, Rudy Giuliani, a reputed US lawyer and politician had served as mayor of New York City from 1994 to 2001. He was especially known for his handling of the twin tower attacks on September 11, 2001. For reason of his popularity as the mayor of the New York, he was viewed as the potential candidate for presidential race on behalf of the Republican Party. He was especially known for his capacity to recruit right person in right place and get the work done in an efficient and effective manner. Similarly, Italy’s prime minister Matteo Renzi used his well-publicised term as mayor of the city of Florence to gather support from other regional politicians to challenge his older rivals for leadership of the Democratic Party to get elected as the prime minster of the country.

As around 60 per cent of the world population is currently living in the cities, political scientists have concluded that cities have emerged as the political unit best suited for meeting the challenges of the 21st century. Even they have declared that those mayors would soon "rule the world”. For canny, deft and successful mayors, the distance between the city hall and the presidential palace can be an advantage rather than an obstacle to their ambitions. Leading an important city allows the politicians to build a base outside of local politics and prove their mettle for national leadership.

Service delivery
In Nepal's case, too many municipality mayors and district bodies' chiefs who had served at the local levels before the introduction of the federal polity in the country had been elected as the member of the Constituent Assembly which performed the role of national legislature as well. Krishna Prasad Sapkota, Bharat Bahadur Khadka, Jamindra Man Ghale, Ganesh Thagunna, Mohan Baniya, Nava Raj Sharma, Sanu Kumar Shrestha, Jeewan Bahadur Shahi and Dormani Poudyal are some of the names who had started their stints at the local governments and climbed the political ladder to clinch such positions as chief ministers, ministers, federal and province-level parliamentarians. As the local government polls is drawing closer in Nepal, political parties should be selective enough to nominate the candidates who can deliver effectively with all integrity to enhance their future political career both in the government and party organisation.

(The author is presently associated with Policy Research Institute (PRI) as a senior research fellow.