Prof. Dr. Melanie Sully

OSCE/ODIHR Expert Workshop on Democracy

Dr Melanie Sully was invited to the specialist political parties seminar at the OSCE/ODIHR which examined the topic from inside out.

Dr Melanie Sully reports from Warsaw, ODIHR

Over 50 specialists in the field of transparency and democratic functioning of political parties assembled in the OSCE/ODIHR headquarters in Warsaw, Poland to take an intensive look at how to improve practical guidelines in the OSCE region for the 57 participating states. Speakers came from eg the USA, Russia, UK, Sweden, Ukraine, Bulgaria, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Austria etc. Dr Melanie Sully referred to the current debate in the UK regarding the historically close links between the Labour Party and the Trade Unions. The latter's control of vast membership records weakens transparency even for the LP itself and gives them influence on the party conference, executive committee and over policy. Whereas such parties that originated in the nineteenth century, modernised their programmatic position in the twentieth century (SPD Bad Godesberg, New Labour UK) they have yet to adapt their structures to the needs and challenges of this century. Other issues included the seeming paradox of increasing transparency and a falling off of trust levels apparent in most of the countries reviewed. Dr Sully concluded that politicians should explain in more detail what they do beyond merely pointing to the importance of democracy which is too abstract for many especially in mature democracies. In an age of financial cutbacks the voters expect value for money and need to understand the concrete job of parliamentarians in the same way they appreciate the need for health and education. The role of the media was stressed which had in some countries eg UK, played an important role in revealing financial irregularities in political party spending.
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