Starting Point

“Whenever you take a step forward, you are bound to disturb something.” (Indira Gandhi)

How is a party designed? What do you need to get a party working? Actually there are a few tools, rules and structures that are important. In this chapter we are going to look at that. We will also look at the bits and pieces that the party is built of and how they should work together.

Constitution and constitutional structures
Every party needs a Constitution. The party’s Constitution serves as the law of the party’s structures on all levels but it also covers the internal procedures. It thus contains the party’s ideological foundation, it’s values, principles and rules for decision-making and elections as well as for how members that disqualify themselves can be expelled. It could thus be called the Starting point of the party.

In order to discuss, develop, execute and also change the Constitution there needs to be a system that is built upon democratic principles. Not only do we need these principles of democratic values but we also need constitutional structures. That is different conferences and committees. When it comes to these constitutional structures the party could be seen as working on different levels based on geographical areas:

  • National level
  • Provincial level
  • Regional level
  • Local level

Explore the image below to read more about the different structures.

Each of these geographical levels has a somewhat similar order of authority.

The branch, the foundation of any party
This manual and learning website is focused on the the Branch. It’s the party’s most important body. In any area a certain number of members can form a local party structure called a Branch. It usually consists of between 50 to 1000 members. A Branch with active members and many activities that reach out to society is a party’s best asset. The Branch members are the party’s ear to the ground and are also the best ambassadors for the party since they are able to talk directly to people in the communities. So what are the tasks for a Party’s Branch?

The Branch formulates and proposes policies to higher levels. It holds higher structures in the party to account. But the key task for the Branch is to recruit members and to activate them.

Most party constitutions stipulate that the Branch must hold a member meeting once a year called an Annual General Meeting (AGM). The Annual General Meeting is the Branch’s highest decision making body

Similar to the constitutional structures covered above the local level or Branch has an Executive Committee. The members elect the BEC at the Annual General Meeting.

Explore the image to see what kind of tasks that is the responsibility of the BEC.

Democracy and democratic principles in our party
In order to truly represent democratic values in society it is imperative that the party itself must adhere to democratic principles. To be open to discussions, to encourage free debate and criticism. To make everyone feel that their opinion counts no matter position or gender. Here also lies the challenges. This is a big challenge, because at the same time the party has to maintain a good party discipline and all members must respect the party’s organizational code of conduct.

A party decision on an issue should be preceded by information, debates and consultations so that members have a say. When a majority decision has been made by a party structure, at whichever level, then that is the party’s formal view. All members must abide by democratically taken decisions. Furthermore, decisions made by higher structures are binding on lower structures. A party must act coherently for many reasons. Every member must understand that this entails supporting and being part of a party where the majority sometimes makes decisions that individual members do not agree with.