IBNA Op-Ed/Changing the electoral system

IBNA Op-Ed/Changing the electoral system

By Mersel Bilali

Our electoral system has already been changed three times with different arguments – avoiding election incidents, reducing financial costs, giving effect to every vote etc. But now we see that the current proportional system with closed lists has further distanced MPs and the government as a whole from the citizens. And it has greatly strengthened the position of the leaders, which logically suffocates the already weak party democracy. It allows the party power to heavily concentrate among the leaders, to the detriment of party control mechanisms. And now people around the leader often enter them with their opinions, but come out with his.

The fact is that even after so many years of pluralistic experience, political parties as major holders of political life have not managed to acquire necessary internal democratic capacity. Inevitably this is inconveniently reflected in the overall democratic environment in the country. Hence the general stagnation in all areas, as sustainable development requires effective and professional functioning of institutions and effective rule of law. And in our judiciary if you catch a thief, the court will make you pay damages for slandering the thief. True democracy cannot be achieved only by formally declaring it, but it is necessary to effectively strengthen the professional capacity, responsibility and accountability within the political parties themselves as primary builders of the overall democratic life in the country. Otherwise we will continue to live with the qualification that democracy is a process which ensures that it will not rule us better than we ourselves deserve.

It raises the question – what should be changed in the system to begin healing the sick tissue in the society? This can be helped by changing the electoral system for better quality selection in the election of MPs. A few years ago, the National Democratic Institute (NDI) organized a roundtable with previous analyzes of several experts on electoral models. Despite the prevailing attitude of the majority of experts that it is necessary to introduce a proportional electoral system with open lists, the main political players did not accept it.

The fact is that with open list elections would have got more legitimacy, and the results would have been closer to the real will of the citizens. It will enable citizens to make their own selection and ranking of proposed candidates. In such a model apart from the fact that the voter votes for the list, of his own free will he can circle the names of candidates. Then the final ranking in the list will directly depend on the voters, not party leaders, as sovereignty comes from the citizens.

The advantages of open lists are: Greater motivation of citizens to vote, because they are given the opportunity to decide upon ranking proposed candidates; Every vote would be effected in respect of the parties exceeding the threshold; It would be preventively influenced to discourage nomination of those who have no moral credibility knowing that they will need to face the voters directly; Political parties driven by strong competition would likely nominate people of better quality, and it would strengthen the role of parliament as an important institution; it would largely eliminate those persons who in spite of their (in)actions remained untouchable for judicial authorities; Open lists would indirectly influence the reform of political parties, as corrupt leaders would go poorly in the ranking and their position would weaken so it would open the possibility for leadership changes.

But above all it should be carried out in an organized manner to boost electoral culture. One cannot be helped by not voting. On the contrary, bad leaders are elected thanks to the good citizens who do not go to the polls. We must realize that if we support something without reasons, we will pay with huge reasons. For years we have been hoping for a gram of truth, and we have been getting tons of lies. Finally, everyone should understand that with bad elections it is not possible to get a good government.

*Mersel Bilali, professor at the FON University and analyst in Skopje

**The opinion of the author doesn’t necessarily represent IBNA’s editorial line