One of the key aspects of a strong democracy is the need for a strong internal party democracy among the political parties, and especially so in the ruling party.
One of the key reasons as to why DPT did not do well in the 2013 Polls was the lack of adequate internal party democracy. There was a popular perception that it was either just the Party President or a few around him that called all the shots.
As pointed out by some critics, the DPT party and even its cabinet were equated to school students in a classroom with the Party President acting as the headmaster.
Soon after the 2008 elections, many of the MPs themselves found it increasingly difficult to meet and frankly discuss issues in their constituencies with ministers who became more and more ‘busy’.
As pointed out by many voters during the 2013 election campaign, many MPs soon lost touch with the grassroots development in their constituencies, and as a result, they did not know enough about the local issues.
Many of the DPT ministers and MPs soon forgot that they came into power in 2008- not just on their own individual efforts, but mainly due to a collective team effort of their supporters and more importantly the voters who had voted for them.
The DPT party, in the absence of a strong internal party democracy and adequate checks and balance, could not hold its elected members to account for the lapses in promise delivery.
There were a series of mistakes made by the elected government in terms of economy, corruption, governance, media, etc., but the MPs and the party silently went along. Many controversial decisions like the Pedestrian Day, etc., were taken on without even sounding out the party MPs and members on how the public would feel about it.
Ironically, in a democracy where the collective will is supreme, the DPT party started looking, sounding, and behaving like it was just one individual.
In that respect, it is welcome news that the PDP is trying to do things differently, by putting forth mechanisms that would lead to stronger internal party democracy.
One of the key proposals of PDP is that none of its ministers will be assured a full term, and will stand to lose their ministerial post if any of them are not able to perform well or found to be engaged in corruption and other controversial activities.
As per the draft proposal, the ministers and MPs will also have to submit four reports a year on their performance to the party executive committee.
Apart from ministers, even the MPs will be held to account by the party and may not get tickets in 2018 if they do not perform. The party’s powerful Executive Committee will evaluate the performance of MPs and ministers and submit recommendations to the Prime Minister, and will also, itself be held to account within specific terms of reference.
This is all important and welcome as it will serve as an additional check and balance.
In many democracies around the world, there is a systemic and strong urge for both ministers and MPs to increasingly forget their promises or to start becoming less accountable to the people, as power tends to make people less accountable. The role of the Opposition party and the media will be all the more important- to remind them of their responsibilities.
A democratic party structure, in that sense, will be a helpful internal check that may cause temporary inconvenience at the start, but will be good for them in the long run.
Even in the international context, political parties that have the genuine internal party democracy are often the ones who are the most principled, more democratic and land up in the least amount of controversies.
This is chiefly because the party can prevent its own ministers or MPs from overshadowing the party and subverting the government and the party to controversial moves or bad decisions.
Ordinary citizens should be concerned about the level of internal party democracy because as visible from 2008-2013- it ultimately affects national governance.
It is hoped that DPT fresh from an election defeat and with a new leadership coming in will recognize and promote internal party democracy, instead of handing over the party lock stock and barrel to a few individuals.
A decentralized system in a party is important as the burden does not just fall on a few people at the top, but even MPs and other party leaders can take part in the decision making process
Ultimately, as with many things in life – good values start at home and so it will be important for both PDP and DPT to ensure that they practice what they preach within their own parties first.
“It is the people who control the Government, not the Government the people.”