Political parties need to shape up

Editorial, Normal

The National,Thursday March 17th, 2016

 POLITICAL parties in the country need to be better organised to enter the next general elections.  

They will have to gear up and promote themselves to the electorate as institutions offering workable policy initiatives rather than brilliant individuals.

Historically, the PNG voter has been attracted to and influenced more by individual politicians than political party policies.

The sheer number of political parties contesting elections has also created some confusion among voters who, as a result chose the simpler option of electing candidates who they knew and liked as persons, irrespective of their party affiliations. 

The election of a large number of independents is testament to that. Consequently, parliaments have been made up of a representation of a large number of small political parties – including even one-man parties – and a collection of independents. 

This has contributed to the loosely held coalition governments PNG has had – comprising one or two dominant parties, a handful of smaller ones and independents. 

Instability in government, poor governance and inability to pursue any one political party’s agenda without compromise have therefore been inevitable and become hallmarks of politics in the country. 

The Registry of Political Parties, through its education and ititiatives, is currently working to address this and other related issues concerning the political the party system and democratic governance in the country generally.

Registrar Dr Alphonse Gelu and his staff have been working hard to improve the party system initially through education and training workshops for political party officials. 

The registry has already hosted a number of workshops for political party officials following the 2012 national elections. 

Resource persons from Australian Labour Party and Liberal Party had been invited to address the training workshops and provide insights into the running of parties.  

Those party officials who attended have taken away valuable hints to get their party structures and policies in order for the coming elections but more importantly, to ensure that their parties remain viable even after the elections. 

A large number of PNG parties appear only during an election and are not heard of until the next.  

This problem was again highlighted by Dr Gelu during a survey by the registry staff in Kerema this week.

“We all know the political parties in PNG.  They come out during elections and once elections are over, they go back to sleep.”

According to Dr Gelu part of the reason for that is because the parties do not have full time salaried executives and policies to strengthen their integrity and become more engaged with people. 

From the survey conducted the registry would then have the necessary information to properly educate voters through an awareness package in preparation for 2017.

While the registry is going out to educate the voter, political parties should likewise promote their policies.

Although there have been somewhat conflicting views from the Registrar of Political Parties and the Electoral Commission on the question of “awareness” as opposed to “early campaigning,” political parties are at liberty to market themselves.

This is also an opportunity for the serious political parties to start recruiting so they become truly representative of a collective interest rather than remain as groups of like-minded political aspirants who emerge at election time and are gone thereafter.

Membership fees would also be a source of useful finance resources at the parties’ disposal to operate during and following elections.

Perhaps some of the existing registered parties would want to consider merging or disbanding to join other bigger ones with similar policy ideas.

It would be a great change from the past to have fewer, bigger and better organised parties entering the 2017 elections.

That would make the job of the voter much easier and hopefully the political establishments that emerge after the next election would be a lot better that what we have now.

The writs for the 2017 elections will be issued in a little over 12 months from now so it is incumbent to prepare themselves and the voter to make that important choice.