Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Inconvenient thoughts

Thanks to my better half Annie, I encountered one more excellent example of Bulgarian social blogging - Neyjoten blog (Inconvenient blog)

In a post called "Why I will not vote for Bogo and Zelenite in the European elections", the blogger Svetla Encheva make some very important points.

Svetla is a personal friend of Bogo, Bogomil Shopov that I have often referred to myself. Bogo is now a candidate for Zelenite in the elections to the European Parliament.

The reason for Svetla to object is not that she can't agree with Bogo. On the contrary, she does agree with Bogo and Zelenite, and thank them for a number of things. Bogo has for example been one of the leading characters in the struggle for internet freedom in Bulgaria, that I have reported on before on Maladets!. But as Svetla says "I would rather see Bogo as a citizen than as a politician". This is a profound truth about democracy. A democracy needs active citizens outside the parliament to work. The most active citizen is not necessary the best politician.

The other reason, that Svetla discusses into lenght, is that Bogo is on the list of Zelenite, and she can't support them. For the following reasons:

Zelenite is, and should remain a social movement, not political party. In deed, as Svetla highlights, one thing that makes Zelenite attractive to many young voters is the fact that they are generally not regarded as politicians. The difference between social movements and parties, according to Svetla, is that the former defend the interest of smaller groups than the latter.

A party also verbalizes the interest of a group, but much bigger. For example it's difficult to generate support for a party for elderly, whereas groups defending the rights of retired are normal, and in deed necessary in society.

When Zelenite goes to elections, it does it as a competitor to the blue coalition, and since their political demands are close, they will generally compete for the same voters in stead of uniting them in a strong alternative.

There is no chance that Zelenite actually will make it to the European parliament. In polls Zelenite is not an alternative, but the alternative "other" usually gets between 1 and 2 %.

This is my summary of Svetla's text. The relevance is proven by the massive interest - the post, posted at 5th of May, today two weeks later had more than 67 long comments.

First of all - I believe that Svetla is wrong. There is a real chance for anything to happen, when 25% of the electorate claim that they will not vote or do no know. I would not be overly surprised if Zelenite and the blue coalition find each other before the elections eithe.

The critique she words against Zelenite I have heard before about the green party in Sweden, and I think this is the critique that every new party will face. All parties grow out of social movements. For sure they will have to evolve into something else later. Some do, some don't. But I can not see any reason why Zelenite would not.

But... Svetle is also right. The difference between a social movement and a political party is in real and vital. Zelenite must choose what to be, and if they decide to be a political party, Bulgaria definitely needs a social movement that can take their place. As a political party they will have to make compromises. But someone must be free to say the truth no matter of the political implications. To make a concrete exampe - the party Zelenite might have to prioritize which Bulgarian national park is the most important to save. A non-governmnental environmental organisation should not and must not do such choices.

As a party they will also have to choose their allies. For now the relationship between Zelenite and the blue coalition is rather unclear. There is a facebook group arguing for Zelenite to join the coalition, and it is difficult to imagine any other partners in Bulgarian politics. But a cooperation should either be more substantial than a Facebook group, or fair competition.

Thanks Svetle, for a thought provoking text! :)

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