Voting in PPEU. By whom and on what ?

Notice : PPEU is the temporary abbreviation in English of the maybe-to-be Pirate Party of the European Union/of Europe. This post was first posted on the mailing-list of the PPEU, and to facilitate reading, I copy it here.

What puzzles me the most is that there seems to be a lot concern on how the voting system within PPEU should work, but little or no concern on what they should vote about. I fail to see how you can debate the voting procedure without having discussed what the voting is all about. Especially since it could be argued that different issues could benefit from different voting mechanisms. Should decisions regarding allocation of money, election of representatives, coordination of events and positions of policy all be decided through the same mechanism? I would say that perhaps they should not. I hope my text will clarify how I’ve come to that conclusion.

Who will use this future tool ?

An organization is essentially a tool to be used by somebody. The success of an organization depends on the perceived utility of the organization. One problem with the discussions regarding PPEU sofar is that we don’t agree on the purpose of the tool, or even for whom the tool should be built. Without agreement, or at least some form of compromise, on the question of whose interests the PPEU is meant to serve we will probably never be able to agree on how the organization should be run.

I see four distinct groups of stakeholders that have an interest in having a PPEU tool.

National/Regional Parties

The first is the national/regional Pirate Parties. For them PPEU would be a useful tool to formalize interaction and cooperation with other Pirate Parties in Europe. I would especially assume this relevant regarding coordination of EU elections campaigns. When mentioned below I will assume that their interest is represented by a board or one or more individuals appointed by the party to do so.

Individuals

The second is individual Pirates living in Europe. For them PPEU would be useful to through dialogue build coherency within the movement and to find a common political vision for Europe.

MEPs

The third is elected Members of the European Parliament (MEPs). For them PPEU would be useful for representing the MEPs as a group vis-a-vis other political parties and in relation to the political groups within the European parliament. In the long run it could also be the backbone on which a separate Pirate Political Group within the parliament could be built. It could also serve as a vessel to transfer knowledge and contacts from one legislature to another.

MPs

The fourth is elected Members of National and regional parliaments (MPs). For them PPEU could be a useful tool to represent the national or regional interest of the area they represent. Especially in a case where the pirates should manage to acquire significant sway over local politics.

All these stakeholders have an interest in the decisions taken within the PPEU, and disregarding either group would weaken the organization, or, at worst, risk creating separate organizations competing for attention and resources. So who should decide what?

What for and how ?

EU elections

The only ones to participate in EU elections are the national parties (in some countries there’s also possibilities of individual candidates). At the moment no European Party can put forth candidates in the EU elections, so the actors within PPEU in this occasion are the national Pirate Parties.

Cooperation is by nature dependent on the willingness of the entities that cooperates (otherwise it is per definition coercion). That means that cooperation among the national Pirate Parties can only be realized through consensus among the participating parties.

To avoid individual parties to block the majority you could introduce possibilities of enhanced cooperation within the PPEU for a subset of member parties. And you could also include limitations that regulate how many time any individual party can exercise it’s right to veto before it is deemed so uncooperative that it gets excluded from the joint platform all together.

Election of representatives

Any organization will need a board to represent the organization and to handle day to day affairs. Such a board will unavoidably be seen by the outside as the spokespersons for the movement in Europe, which gives all stakeholders mentioned above an interest in how the board is elected, and who gets to be part of the board meetings.

The two major stakeholders will be the national/regional Pirate Parties and the individual members.

The parties benefit from having someone on the “inside” in the PPEU when it comes to information flows (informal information will always exceed formal) and it could also be useful in the national debate to show the importance of the party on the transnational level by having elected representatives in PPEU.

The individual pirates have a stake in electing representatives that they can identify themselves with and who they feel share their view of the development of the movement. A balance will have to be struck between these two groups.

One solution is allowing member parties to nominate and individual members to vote. Another is to put a restriction on the number of board members that can be elected from the same party. Yet another is to have a double majority system where a candidate needs both the majority of the votes at large and the majority of the votes from a majority of the member parties to be elected.

The MEPs and MPs should probably not have any special voting rights regarding representation, but as cooperation between the board and the elected representatives of the movement on regional/national/EU-level is crucial they should be given the right to appoint representatives that get attached to the board but without voting rights.

Coordination of events

If we exclude the GA, where all categories of stakeholders are affected, and events related to election coordination, which mainly concerns the national/regional Parties, all other events mainly concerns the individual pirates who are given the opportunities to participate. The details of such events should therefor be decided by the individual members. Either all members (potential participants) or those who sign up for the event (actual participants)

Policymaking

If the organization has the aim to represent the unified Pirate movement of Europe the most logical way to decide on policy would be to have individual pirates or delegates representing individual pirates (as for example is the case within a liquid feedback system) decide on the policy.

To ensure that such decisions does not risk dividing the movement we could give individual parties the option to state their disagreement with any policy taken by the individual members, or veto rights, or the option for the parties to vote down any policy decision that does not get the support of a certain percemtage of the member parties.

Implementing policy on a European level

This can only be decided by the individual pirates that, through candidacy for their national/regional parties, gets elected to become MEPs. The regulations regarding MEPs state quite clearly that they are bound by no decisions made by either PPEU or the parties that got them elected. Only they can decide on how to act if the position of the party that got them elected and the position of the PPEU differs.

As they are the only ones faced with the down to earth realities of the inside work of the parliament they will most likely counsel each other and try to find a structure for cooperation within the political group they align themselves with (or as non inscripts if they decide they prefer to forsake any real influence in the parliament to stay unattached to any other political grouping).

In the long run we will probably have a group of our own, and when that day arrives we will have to find a way to balance the interests of that group with the interests of the PPEU (as a political party at european level) as those two entities can not be the same (A political group in the parliament can only consist of the MEPs that belong to the group).

Conclusion

So, to sum it up. Beliving that a catch all decision making system within the PPEU would be the best option is like believing that one monolithic catch all copyright regime is the best option to encourage every kind of cultural expression know to mankind. It is simplified, and wrong.

À propos de Mattias Bjärnemalm

Mattias Bjärnemalm est directeur du cabinet d'Amelia Andersdotter au Parlement Européen. Madame Andersdotter est la deuxième pirate suédoise à être entrée au Parlement.

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