Five proposals for creating more open political parties.08/05/2018
Rafa Ayala. Open government model consultant.
The concept of “open government” has been gaining traction in Spain and Latin America in recent years. The approval of the Ibero-American Charter on Open Government at the 25th Ibero-American Summit (Cartagena de Indias, 2016) consolidated this new means of running our institutions. By setting out its principles and transferring them to our party system, I suggest how a political party can implement an open process vis-a-vis society and its citizens. My 5 proposals are:
- Consolidate the principle of good party governance by strengthening its principles with a rigorous ethical code for public office or party positions in which public service comes before any other interests. An ethical code that can be reinforced by reserving a minimum number of ethics committee posts for persons outside the party. The Guipuzcoa Regional Government’s integrity system is an example that could be transferred to a political organisation: http://www.gipuzkoa.eus/es/diputacion/sistema-de-integridad.
- Transparency as a cross-cutting tool to guide the organisation internally, and by publishing information that is relevant and of social interest externally to society. Parties, on account of their particular importance in the constitutional system, must not only be exemplary in terms of the information published on their websites in compliance with legal requirements, but also make the effort to explain to society how they are organised, their employment policies, how they gather and spend their funds, and lastly, how they manage the different areas of their organisations. If they can be understood from the outside, this will help them improve their processes internally and raise awareness amongst their affiliates, members or activists. For example, Chile’s Renovación Nacional [National Renewal]: http://transparencia.rn.cl/.
- Implement accountability mechanisms for public offices with a frequency appropriate to the post. It is fundamental that activists or members understand how their leaders make decisions. More so when they are often hard to understand. Governance is complicated and providing political and technical reasons for the decisions taken is the best way to remain close and understood in daily political life. Accountability mechanisms can be heterogeneous. I advocate those aimed at activists and members as a first step towards others in which civil society plays a role in government. In any event, the narrative must be focussed on the responsibility of public offices and mangers towards their base. Two interesting government examples, but which can be transferred to parties, are Extremadura Cumple: http://extremaduracumple.es/ and Vitoria-Gasteiz Council: https://www.vitoria-gasteiz.org/a29-01w/plan/show/1?lang=es&locale=es&idioma=es&
- Enshrine participation in the rules and by-laws of all parties. In their daily operation such a participation principle can falter, and on many occasions become a mere declaration that is not converted into reality. Parties, as organisations that group thousands of people, have a great opportunity to achieve mobilisation and quality participation when taking internal decisions. A group that is organised and cohesive in terms of a specific goal has a great opportunity to implement participation processes for leadership elections, manifesto preparation, policy-making, the gathering of opinions during current affairs debates… In short, to create a participation culture that is useful. In addition, there is technology that can help us achieve these goals such as CIVICITI. Technology at the service of communities, be they institutional or political, with great scalability potential.
- Collaboration and innovation open the way for public management. Political parties in Spain could benefit enormously from the creation of hybrid spaces, where society is consulted about specific policies or which can act as meeting points to gain understanding about collective demands and concerns. But I am not referring to meetings that can be held in the context of an election campaign or out of opportunism, but rather promoting a horizontal creative space between politicians and civil society, as a methodology for creating and reinforcing specific policies and programs implemented in the medium term. A government example would be that of Nariño (Columbia) https://innovacionsocialnarino.com/v2/.