By Dr Alphonse Gelu
The Registry since its establishment in 2001 has worked hard in strengthening political parties in the country. The most important step taken by the Registry was firstly by creating a conducive environment in which the Registry and the various political parties can conduct their business.
In 2012, this relationship developed into new heights when programs were identified by the Registry to build the capacity of the party executives. This resulted in the roll out of the Learning and Development Plan. The Plan saw the Registry conducting 4 workshops in year starting in 2013 to 2017. Political party executives benefited from these trainings which started off with the Centre for Democratic Institutions (CDI) facilitating and later the Registry through the Registrar taking over the facilitation from 2015 to 2017.
In 2018, the mentoring plan was introduced to replace the Learning and Development Plan. The mentoring was cheaper as it did not cost the Registry funds to conduct such trainings and also the mentoring enabled the party executives to have a one to one dialogue with mentors who were all staff of the Registry.
Despite the roll out of these programs, the Registry is still keen to provide further support to the political parties. These support is to strengthen the parties and to make them known to the people. What are some key areas that are critical to the strengthening of political parties in Papua New Guinea? The following are the critical areas that must be done mostly by the political parties themselves to strengthen them:
This is an area that the Registry has continuously reminded political parties to do. In 2013, a template was developed by the Registry to assist political parties to maintain a database on the membership of political parties. Unfortunately to date, this area has not been seriously embraced by the political parties. It is a concern to the Registry that parties are not taking heed of this direction from the Registry.
Revise Party Constitution
The party constitutions are important for all political parties. They all have constitutions but the Registry is working with political parties to ensure that what they have in place is a constitution that takes into account all the aspect of running and managing a political party. It has come out that some parties do not have constitutions that adequately addressed certain areas and this was evident when there were internal disputes that arose.
Revise Party Policies
Parties have been asked to revise their policies after every elections. Parties have not done this despite the calls made by the Registry. Parties must know that policies should drive the support during the elections. If parties failed to receive support during the elections, then the policies have not worked to attract the support.
It is common knowledge that voters do not vote for policies during the elections in Papua New Guinea. And political parties do not campaign on policies. This is the reality but from the Registry’s perspective, this can and need to change. Political parties must inform the people about their policies. The policies must become the decisive element in the casting of preferences.
Develop Work Plans
Political parties as organisations must have their annual work plans in place. The Registry has reminded the parties since 2013 to do this, however many have failed to provide their annual work plans to the Registry. Even worse is the parties that are in Parliament and those that are in government. The Registry has no idea what these parties planned to achieve annually and what activities they would be involved in and how much it would cost them to do this.
The work plans would show the Registry and members of the party what the party envisage to roll out in a year. Without these then the Registry is truly in the dark on what the parties are doing and with the assumption that the parties are not doing anything at all. This assumption does not help the case of the Registry putting a stop to payments of certain allowances to the General Secretaries because the Registry strongly feel that the General Secretaries do not deserve these kind of payments for doing nothing.
Awareness is the key activity that would really change the people’s perception about political parties in the country. Parties and their leaders need to visit villages, sleep and talk with the villages and inform them about national issues and what the government is doing. The reality is that there is no attachment between the government, political parties and the people. There is a deep divide between the parties and the people resulting in parties having little success in elections.
Strengthen relationship between parliamentary wing and non-parliamentary wing
The relationship between these two groups is important to strengthening political parties in terms of maintaining unity and standing togather to address issues confronting the party. Recently a number of parties have fallen prey to disagreements and led to disintegration in party membership and unity. Both groups have to respect each other’s mandate and create an environment that would contribute positively to the interests of the party.
Raise funds for the party
Funds is critical for political parties. Political parties in the country are poor and lack the funding that is required to do other important things to strengthen the parties. The parties have to be innovative and creative on how to raise funds for themselves. Failure to do this would contribute to them remaining within the status quo. This is not beneficial at all for the parties.
Give equal attention to women as party members and those that have potentials to succeed in elections
Making political parties inclusive is also critical to party development in the country. Political parties must take this agenda on board and be serious about it. Women are equal partners to men and political parties must have in place plans and programs to lure support from the women and provide support for the women. Parties need to mobilise the women because they are voters themselves and they can make a difference to the election outcome.
The Registry has tried its best to work with political parties to promote women within their organisations and would continue to do this.From the Registry of Political Parties, the above are the critical areas in strengthening political parties in the country. The responsibility to achieve and to plan these areas is the sole responsibility for the political parties themselves. They must seriously embrace these areas.