This article has been written for Albanian Free Press newspaper and www.albanianfreepress.al
By Eduard Zaloshnja
At the end of this week, the Democratic Party will hold its caucus, to discuss and approve the recent changes in the party statute. The aim of these changes is to make the Democratic Party more democratic. But, how democratic can this party become?
One of the most important changes in the DP’s statute will be the application of the principle “one member, one vote” not just for the election of the party leader. From now on, besides the election of the party leader, this principle will also apply to parliamentary candidates that will represent the Democratic Party in each constituency.
However, the application of the principle “one member, one vote” at the DP, SP and SMI, has shown that the race has been almost fictitious. Rama achieved a “landslide” victory against Lakrori, Meta achieved a “landslide” victory against Luan Rama, Basha achieved a “landslide” victory against Selami.
In fact, the selection of parliamentary candidates through the “one member, one vote” principle, would mark a progressive step (as opposed to the drafting of the list by the chairman himself), but it would not be significant from the aspect of democratic representation, because in Albania, members see the party as a mere opportunity to find a job within public administration.
On the other hand, the application of the principle “one supporter, one vote” in the election of the party chairman and parliamentary candidates, would really represent a step forward. In Democratic Party’s case, around 700 thousand right wing voters could participate in the selection process. A chairman who is elected this way, could easily say that he represents his party’s voters. And the same thing can also be said about parliamentary candidates.
Summed up in the paragraph above, this change in the statute, seems more reasonable and simpler to be realized. However, its application in practical terms is not that simple. The first issue that comes up when a party adopts the principle “one supporter, one vote” is: who will have the right to vote based on this principle? The party member can easily be identified through his membership card. So, how will the party’s support be identified? How will supporters of other parties be prevented from voting in a party’s internal elections?
In developed democratic countries, this is achieved through the official register of party’s supporters. Someone who has registered as supporter of one party cannot participate in the internal elections of another party; he can only participate in his party’s elections.
This argument leads us to the biggest difficulty of the application of the principle “one supporter, one vote”. In order for this principle to work out, all the main parties in the country should hold internal primary elections. This way, supporters of each party will be interested on voting within their party. By registering, they cannot participate in the elections taken place in another party.
If only one of the parties applies the principle “one supporter, one vote”, supporters of other parties could easily go to participate with the aim of damaging that particular party. This way, the party’s cohesion could receive a blow.
The question is: are the three main parliamentary parties in Albania ready to apply the “one supporter, one vote” principle? Would Basha agree to race for the post of the party chairman within the right wing electorate (which had around 700 thousand voters when he assumed office and was elected based on the principle “one member, one vote”)? Would Rama and Kryemadhi be ready to authorize the supporters of their parties to draft the list for parliamentary candidates (perhaps today, their post would not be threatened by the “one supporter, one vote” principle).
If the three leaders of the main parliamentary parties agree on holding elections within the party based on the “one supporter, one vote” principle, a date could be set in order for the parties to hold primary elections ahead of the parliamentary elections. These elections would produce the party chairman, who would lead the party in the general elections, and also the candidates of each party for parliament. In this case, if a supporter decided to participate in a party’s elections, is not entitled to participate in another party’s elections.
But will this not identify who votes which party? In fact, representatives on the field of the main political parties have identified them already. Ahead of every election, they canvass voters in each area.
But, could the primaries system act as an obstacle for new parties. They can grow through the support of those voters who do not support any of the existing parties. In fact, a new party could become part of the primaries system (based on the principle “one supporter, one vote”) only if they have a particular number of supporters. Otherwise, they could hold their internal elections in the apartments that they rent to use as offices.
Note: The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Albanian Free Press’ editorial policy