In my pursuit of the reasons behind the stalling of the Tunisian revolution and the lack of charismatic and visionary leaders, I have come across some new challenges that are shared by many in the political arena. They concern the strategies and the means necessary to building a winning political party. The following is an analysis of the current state of political party building.
The current model adopted by almost all the new parties requires a second look at the strategic level. It is top-heavy and pays very little attention to mobilizing resources. I wonder, is it because parties were not allowed sufficient time to organize and develop programs? Is it because they are still finding out what it means to communicate or raise funds?Is it because in their rush to seize power they never standardized procedures of how to build parties? Or is it simply because they are just learning on the job?
I would like to focus on two important factors.
Opposition parties are anything but successful as far as a strategic human resource mobilization is concerned. As for deployment into grassroots party building, it is more by default on account of demands by aspiring regional representatives. As a result, our parties are driven by ambition rather than vision, with uncoordinated pockets strewn throughout the country. This is one of the factors which produced the absence of choice on 10/23/2011. Choice, if it exists at all, is more about being close to the people and presenting solid propositions.
A critical test before opposition parties in Tunisia is the need to properly restructure internal party organization, second only to a party’s vision and strategy. A good party structure would mean separating political leadership from the party management. In other words, there is an urgent need to professionalize the internal workings of our parties (a question of meritocracy) if they are to meet the expectations of Tunisians. A situation where assignments are handed out based on personal loyalty is counter-productive and can only breed inequitable practices. Today, more than any time in the past, or possibly the future, professionalizing the operations of our political parties would necessitate focus in two areas. These are membership mobilization and party funding. The two are related.
As such, it is the absence of focus in these two areas that made our parties what they are – opposition in the true sense of the word- happy to jump on the opportunity to appear on TV or in half full meeting rooms, and provide nothing but rhetoric. To appeal to, and mobilize membership would entail working with specific groups of citizens such as unions, professional organizations and civil society. The strength of commitments to these partnerships would open the doors to financial contributions. Beyond offers however, membership would be encouraged to make contributions if they are guaranteed prudent management of party resources. Also, apart from good governance, good financial management is imperative for the financial survival of parties. Financial management should not be therefore only vested in the hands of political leaders. Competent personnel with requisite fundraising and bookkeeping skills must be recruited and remunerated.
The other issue is the need to focus mobilization specifically towards internal regions of the country, and specifically the close to a million unemployed and uneducated persons. Any party that is popular to these categories of our population would be guaranteed majority votes. Opposition parties need to consciously invest resources to develop youth and women mobilization programmes and projects in rural areas.
With all these issues addressed and strategies to fix or improve them in place, opposition parties should then begin the process of negotiating operational standards and best practices. If they are to ever consider alliances or future partnerships, any open issues will represent insurmountable challenges, prohibiting possible alliances, and robbing Tunisians of a viable political alternative to the current governing party, especially when the next elections are around the corner.