Saturday, April 21, 2012

What if we treated political parties like short-term projects (with a clear end-point)?

The default assumption is that a political party is a permanent part of the political landscape until it:

  • bleeds away enough voters to not exist anymore
  • collapses due to internal dysfunction
  • can't survive the de-election or loss of its leader

In an MMP environment, do we have to have permanent political parties? Especially if the results of the MMP review (which I'll contribute to soon) mean that the threshold for election is lowered from 5% of the vote to 2-3%.

Under those conditions, I think you could create a party that had a single clear objective (Write off all student loans; Implement an emissions trading scheme; whatever). A single objective allows you to promote your ideas clearly; it gives you something specific to achieve if you're negotiating to form a coalition government; it gives voters a clear sense of your decision-making priorities and what you're likely to do in government.(*)

(*) Well, it does as long as your project-based party clearly outlines 
what its principles are by which they will make decisions.

A project-based party would then exist in one of two states:

  • Dynamic: it's promoting its ideas, getting into government, implementing its ideas
  • Static: it's achieved it's ideas and is now sticking around to either consolidate its ideas into the political landscape or because it likes the idea of staying in power for the sake of it.

There are two advantages to a project-based party:

  • It's clear what the party stands for
  • It can advocate for ideas that are more extreme (shifting the Overton window).
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