Open lists for democratization of parties
Author: Sefer Selimi Jr.
At the foundation of a functioning democracy lies the clear division between the power that manages public money, the one who makes decisions about the direction of the state, and the one who divides justice. This fragile interconnection is a balance that holds the sovereign’s trust, the one who pays for the functioning of these powers in exchange for public services, perspective and justice while their quality of life depends directly on the quality with which this system delivers its services.
North Macedonia writhes now and for over 30 years to honor a functioning democracy, as citizens want and as politicians promise whenever they launch party caravans in campaigns to win power votes. But building this system will remain an impossible mission for the next 30 years if the political parties are not democratized.
The process of democratizing political parties is one of the most important challenges because they are currently a clash between outdated, mediocre political ideologies, manipulative and individual interests, clannish and criminal. Regardless of the statutes, practices and intra-party organizational forms, they operate within a feudal mentality, where the party leader divides the plunder of power in proportion to the number of votes brought to the party. This political mentality has produced a well-organized clienteles’ system that operates on the basis of partisan meritocracy and, for its core values, has blind loyalty to the leader, the number of votes it mobilizes and the clan to which it belongs. Functioning like this, the parties have marginalized professionals and individuals with qualities, but the greatest crime they have committed to this society is the killing of healthy ambitions and the hope that they will be used within these boundaries.
Every time elections approach, a heated debate about the electoral model begins, but it disappears immediately afterward. To begin the democratization of political parties, the electoral model that feeds this feudal mentality must also change. Opening voter lists would first challenge party leaders by taking their exclusivity, ‘Safe Places’, and passing it on to the citizens. The ability to vote for an individual directly increases the responsibility of the electorate towards the voter and is a strong basis for stimulating intra-party debate as the trust gained by citizens comes not only from the party and the leader but mainly from their individual values.
Also, the open-list electoral model would filter out a good deal of the political fossils that survive thanks to party positioning, closeness to the leader, and often using Machiavellian actions to kill any competition that would endanger their position.
During this time, this debate occasionally occupies space in public opinion but to change it will require clear, strong and sincere political will from both party and opposition party leaders, a will that I suspect exists. Meanwhile, there is almost complete consensus among citizens and civil society that this change is necessary, and the only way to foster this will is through constant pressure from all social actors.