In liberal political theory, it has long been noted that the relative neglect of the internal life of political parties is due to the notion that they are private associations, which are entitled to govern their own internal structures and processes. This laissez faire approach, unfortunately, has led to internal divisions because, among other reasons, the leader has too much power to the extent that everything in the party revolves around him.
The “privatization” of political parties has had devastating consequences on their survival. Can you think of how many political parties died after the exit or death of their leader? ChukwuemekaOdumegwuOjukwu’s APGA? AlhajiAttahiruDalhatuBafarawa’s DPP? Dr. Olusegun Mimiko’s LP? Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s AD? The list is endless. In the case of APC, will the party survive after President MuhmmaduBuhari tenure? Who build and unprecedented record of integrity that transformed into a political tsunami that swept the PDP government out of power?
But all this can be avoided if political parties can strengthen their internal democracy. One of the major strategies is to allow ordinary members to express their views on matters of policy and strategic planning. This can be done by establishing forums within the party that hear directly the concerns and wishes of the people. Related to this is that the party leaders, instead of living in the comfort of their cocoons, need to be accessible to ordinary members so that they can know what is happening on the ground.
What makes political parties lose their touch with the people is that they tend to work like bureaucrats who mainly communicate through memos, emails and telephone calls. Such communication channels, although useful, lack a human face and often do not reach the rank and file. You need to have a critical mass of dedicated cadres or “foot soldiers” that are always in touch with the people. And in this day and age of digital technology, the party should have a website or hotline which can be used to communicate directly between the people and its leader(s).
A critical strategy that can promote internal democracy in a political party is to allow vigorous advocacy by non-governmental organizations and individuals, such as Churches, Mosques, students’ organizations, professional organizations, trade unions, farmers’ organizations and others. Once these bodies are given a hearing, the party is likely to speak the “voice of the people”. This strategy is emphasized by most European countries constitutions, which states: “Political parties are the expression of political pluralism; they contribute to the formation and expression of the will of the people and are a fundamental instrument for political participation”.
Internal democracy within political parties can also be enhanced by establishing qualified research teams that look into various economic, political and social issues. For instance, the research team can investigate why there is voter apathy, electoral processes, a declining support base, land redistribution, unemployment, the quality of education, internal factions, etc. Like any business enterprise, political parties need to look at their marketing strategies, including the quality of their leadership which stands as a brand for the party.
Finally, in order to foster greater internal democracy in the party, there is need to adopt a deliberate policy of a quota system which reserves a certain percentage for ethnic minorities. This should also include a gender quota which defines the minimum percentage of female candidates in the party leadership as well as representatives in parliament. The quota system can also be extended to the youth who form the largest segment of the population. In this way, any political party that wants to avoid being consigned to the museum of antiquities, can gain greater cohesion and be able to march into the future with greater confidence.
Comrade Ahmed OmeizaLukman (Kiev Ukraine)
Phone number: +380639279059