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To Friends and Partners of DIPD

Once again we look back on a year with many exciting activities, as well as difficult challenges. Democracy can never be taken for granted. All of us need to protect it, improve it, and fight for it, depending on where we happen to live.

2Working together to support and inspire each other, is what DIPD is all about. We hope that we have been able to contribute our share, and we thank all of you for your support, cooperation and friendship.

One highlight in 2015 was the celebration of 100 years of women in politics in Denmark on June 5. Celebrating this with so many of our partners was a unique  experience, and we share a few of the photos from those days with you.

3On behalf of the DIPD Team, I wish you an enjoyable and peaceful holiday period!

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COALITION BUILDING – FINDING SOLUTIONS TOGETHER

DIPD launched the publication: “Coalition Building – Finding Solutions Together” at Christiansborg at a seminar featuring a panel of Danish MPs, which put the Danish and international practice of political settlements under examination.

Click here to read the publication.

The Danish parties have over the years developed a political practice of broad political settlements and coalition building, which many parties around the world have expressed interest in learning more about. DIPD’s strategy focuses on ideas that can inspire democratic development, and at the request of several parties around the world (e.g. in Nepal and Myanmar), DIPD launched a publication on coalition building, which highlights the Danish experiences, while also examining alliances and coalition building around the world, which can inspire the Danish debate.

Denis Kadima is the director of EISA, Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa.

Denis Kadima is the director of EISA, Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa.

In relation to DIPD’s international work on democracy, the former Danish foreign minister Martin Lidegaard argued, that a ”Publication on coalition building and political settlements is spot on. In Denmark we have something special to offer when it comes to dialogue and the practice of coalition building”.  He also pointed to two important prerequisites for the Danish political culture – the nonpartisan central administration and a strong civil society. In many of DIPD’s partner countries the central administration and civil society face severe challenges.

Denis Kadima, who is a co-author of the publication, clarified that coalition building is widespread across many African countries, and due to this many of the Danish experiences are relevant and useful as inspiration, even though the political context is naturally different.

In relation to this Robert Klemmensen and Flemming Juul Christiansen argued that among other things, the Danish proportional electoral system has great significance for the prevalent practices of coalition building and political settlements in Denmark. Helene Helboe Pedersen also emphasized the importance of understanding how the internal culture of parties affects the manner in which they engage with political cooperation and settlements. ”In many countries the desire to gain access to power through electoral coalitions is all that counts – after the elections the coalitions crumble” Denis Kadima pointed out.

Inspiration from Danish coalition practices

Negotiations over the budget have just come to a close and political settlements are entered into daily. But what characterizes the Danish practice of political settlements? And wherein lie the strengths and weaknesses of such practices? In the same vein what can be used to inspire others?

Debate with: Martin Lidegaard – Social Liberal Party, Christian Juhl – Red-Green Alliance, Mi-chael Aastrup Jensen – Liberal Party, Holger K. Nielsen – Socialist People’s Party, Yildiz Ak-dogan – Social Democrats, og Uffe Elbæk – The Alternative.

Debate with: Martin Lidegaard – Social Liberal Party, Christian Juhl – Red-Green Alliance, Mi-chael Aastrup Jensen – Liberal Party, Holger K. Nielsen – Socialist People’s Party, Yildiz Ak-dogan – Social Democrats, og Uffe Elbæk – The Alternative.

”We try and create settlements, which bind us together and create continuity as well as direction in Danish politics”, Michael Aastrup argued. This view was echoed by Yildiz Akdogan, who emphasized that ”coalitions provide continuity and results around central issues in society, which require solutions that extend beyond one election period”.

Michael Aastrup elaborated on his point: ”One enters a marriage of common sense if you will- and we look at how to proceed together to find the golden mean.”

Holger K. Nielsen added that:”We have a democracy characterised by conversation, which has been built over a long period of time. We do not have a system, where the winner takes it all, and we are used to the winner also becoming the loser one day- this is an important prerequisite in order to take into consideration the interests of other parties.”

Making political settlements is both in the interest of small and large parties, and Martin Lidegaard highlighted, that:”a small party can gain great influence, but can also risk minimizing its political party profile, because one has to defend compromises. It is actually an art to create a balance between considerations towards one’s mandate and the necessity of settlements, and being able to communicate this to the public.” Yildiz Akdogan, added that:”The ability and the will to enter into political settlements is also an important way for the opposition party to signal its politics”.

The dark side of danish political culture

While the strengths of Danish coalition building were being brought to light, some warnings were also iterated. Holger K. Nielsen pointed out that ”inflation has hit political settlement making” in the sense that ”things may have gone too far as settlements are being entered in all areas. This runs the risk of depoliticizing and creating less transparency when it comes to the parties in the coalition, and it neither stimulates the public debate, nor the debate and negotiations in the committees in Parliament”.

Uffe Elbæk explained that:”A good political settlement is built on trust and ownership, as well as pride by communicating the collective result to the support base”.  Uffe Elbæk noted the existence of the dark side of Danish political culture: ”The trust between us and the voters is fragile- the level of confidence is very low and few have the desire to enter politics. So how can we rebuild this trust and move from a representative democracy to and involving democracy?”.

Christian Juhl agreed by underscoring that there still a need to develop and improve Danish democracy and that:”it would be refreshing to have a couple of referendums every year- also to increase contact between the politicians and the voters.

For more information please contact:

Hanne Lund Madsen, Senior advisor, DIPD; hlm@dipd.dk – +45 40 76 75 27

 

The dialogue that disappeared

In September, there were high hopes in some parts of Swaziland’s civil society and democratic movement that a dialogue with the county’s absolute monarch King Mswati III was on the table. Not least because of pressure from the Commonwealth, the USA and the EU. Three months later no such meeting has taken place and that hope seems all but shattered.

By Peter Kenworthy, the Red Green Alliance

 

The meeting was to have taken place between king Mswati III, who has ruled Swaziland almost single-handedly for 30 years, and the so-called G15 group, made up of representatives from Swaziland’s civil society, trade unions and political parties SWADEPA, PUDEMO, Sibahle Sinje and the NNLC.

 

Room for improvement
Former President of Malawi Bakili Muluzi was to have brokered the dialogue, as he had both held meetings with Swaziland’s civil society groups and allegedly formed a personal relationship with the king.

Muluzi had been appointed Special Envoy to Swaziland last year by the Commonwealth due to his heading of a Commonwealth team that had monitored the 2013 Swazi elections.

Here his observer team had concluded that the elections were not credible and that there was “considerable room for improving the democratic system”, and that “legislation [should] be put in place to allow for political parties”, who are presently not allowed to take part in elections in Swaziland.

 

Talks, dialogue or royal lecture?
Negotiations with Mswati were always going to be difficult, as he is an absolute monarch. Any Swazi meeting him is literally on his or her knees when having an audience with him. He or she is only meant to listen, not question what the king says.

On top of this, everyone seems to have a different perception of what the dialogue between the king and Swaziland’s civil society and political parties encompassed.

The EU seemed to believe that there was to be a dialogue about democracy between the king and civil society and Swaziland’s political parties, and subsequently attempted to help capacitate the G15.

The Americans believed that it was too early to discuss such matters and saw it as merely an icebreaker where the king was to meet with a G15 that was made up of representatives of civil society, not political parties.

And PUDEMO President Mario Masuku says he also saw the prospect of a meeting as merely an icebreaker, as this was what he had been told by Muluzi, as did the NNLC.

 

Level the playing field
PUDEMO, who say that they have been prepared to talk with the king and the Swazi government for decades, made several demands for a meeting to take place to level the playing field if there were to be meaningful discussions about the democratisation of Swaziland. They communicated these demands in the press amongst other things to quell rumours that they were “selling out”.

Amongst the demands was that all political parties must be unbanned, multiparty elections must be held, a new constitution must be implemented and the 1973 proclamation, where the kings father assumed supreme power for the monarchy, must be annulled.

Several princes, governors and court presidents have expressed shock at the fact that PUDEMO dared make any demands to meeting the king at all, as “no Swazi could ever set conditions for meeting the king”, as one traditionalist put it.

This coupled with the fact that the meeting has still not taken place would seem to indicate that the king was never really intent on having a meeting with Swaziland’s civil society and political parties that might actually have produced any meaningful changes.

 

King must lead
A draft presentation was prepared for the meeting by one of the members of the G15 and amongst other things, the document starts by thanking the king for his “willingness and openness in leading the nation”, acknowledges his concern “with the development of the country and of its people”, and commends him on his leadership and vision for matters such as the “desire to attain first world status” by 2022.

And even though the document requests the king to “engage in a process of national political discussion on our system of governance towards opening up of political space and the establishment of a system that also enables citizens to have the choice of participating through their chosen political parties during elections by the next elections in 2018” through a “genuine national and inclusive process of political dialogue and negotiation”, such a “change process”, it is stated, must  “be led by the king”.

 

No real pressure
So what does the future hold for the G15-talks that are on the one hand muddled by strategic disagreements on whether to accomodate the king’s rules or make demands, and on the other hand seemingly breaking up?

Sibahle Sinje pulled out of the G15 team in November and rumours have it that others might follow, and an advisor to the king, Prince Masitsela, has stated publically that any chances of a meeting between the G15 and the king are now slim.

But an absolute monarch such as Mswati was never going to accept any challenge to his power as long as there is no real pressure on him, and for the moment, there isn’t really any such pressure inside Swaziland.

And this is regardless of the fact that the USA have recently annulled the AGOA free trade agreement with Swaziland and the EU look set to exclude Swaziland from the EU duty free markets, and that this, combined with the loss in revenue from the Southern African Customs Union, could lead to a collapse in Swaziland’s economy.

 

Bridging the gap
Some members of the G15 still believe that enough pressure can be put on Mswati by the population as well as the G15 organisations to force him to the negotiating table, however. The goal is democracy, but also to ensure that the lower-middle-income country that is Swaziland will provide basic services for the two thirds of the population who survive on less than a dollar a day.

“Through initiating dialogue we seek to bridge a gap between the oppressed and the oppressor. An all-embracing open and democratic Swaziland is being built daily by true Swazi patriots who join hands in putting pressure on Mswati to listen. It is dialogue time your majesty, today”, says Wandile Dludlu, who represents the Swaziland United Democratic Front in the G15.

 

DIPD continues to support the partnerships between the Red Green Alliance and PUDEMO, as well as between the Danish Social Democratic Party and SWADEPA.

Read more about the partnership with PUDEMO here.

Read more about the partnership with SWADEPA here.

IMPRESSIONS FROM A MISSION

After a week in Bhutan, meeting with a large number of very well informed people representing different institutions of the new democracy, and after having participated in training for the political parties and a seminar about some Danish experiences, Bjørn Førde asked Kirsten Jensen and Lars Barfoed about their impressions.

A DIPD Report

What was the most surprising dimension of democracy in Bhutan you noted during your mission?

Kirsten Jensen: The level of reflection about democracy is very high. Maybe that is not a surprise, since the democracy is new and therefore somewhat ‘under construction’. Also, there is concern about how to let most citizens participate in the democracy, which is a challenge given the natural environment – mountains, distances and lack of money – and some very high requirements for becoming a candidate. The restrictions on who can become a candidate are narrowing down the options considerably. Also, the lukewarm feelings for parties, meaning that they can only stand for elections centrally but not locally, is a little surprise and is calling for transparency about the basis for picking and voting for local leaders.

LARS BARFOED: Having visited Bhutan 11 years ago, when the democracy was decided to be developed, but was not yet established, I was impressed with the respect for democratic principles that everyone involved is showing. During my stay in 2004, I had the pleasure of meeting the king, who had taken the decision to establish a democracy. We discussed among other things the organization of the parliament, and he had some very clear and well founded ideas about it. There is no doubt that his personal commitment has been decisive for the democratic development, Bhutan has undergone during the last 11 years.

You met with the Speaker of Parliament as well as several Members of Parliament during your visit. Was there anything that very clearly pointed to the Bhutanese way of doing things – or did it resemble the Danish system?

Lars Barfoed next to the Minister Dorji Chhoden in her office, talking about the challenges of having to respond to questions from the opposition, which Lars Barfoed also has experienced as a former minister.

Lars Barfoed next to the Minister Dorji Chhoden in her office, talking about the challenges of having to respond to questions from the opposition, which Lars Barfoed also has experienced as a former minister.

LARS BARFOED: There is a very clear Bhutanese way of doing things. I will especially point out the two-party system that exists as a result of the election system ruling out all but the two largest parties after a first election round, and then electing the members of parliament as a result of the second election round between the remaining two parties. For us, this is strange, but it is generally accepted in Bhutan.

KIRSTEN JENSEN: It seems the Bhutanese have decided to construct traditions and the physical environment in such a way that it helps promote cooperation and contact between parliamentarians. The chamber is formed as a horse shoe as the two parties in parliament must not be seen as opposite numbers per se. However, with a two party system, this becomes less clear in reality. Also an organized tea break in the yard of parliament forces social interaction on MPs in a way to ensure interest in each other. We experienced that in beautiful sunshine.

Part of your mission was to train members of the 5 political parties, and these are all very new parties compared to your own parties. What was your impression of the parties – and what do you feel are the main challenges?

KIRSTEN JENSEN: To formulate a party political vision and get it across seems to be a challenge when you live in a nation with a very strong vision of its own. The representatives of these parties are clearly very able people, and very conscious of this challenge. They also strive with having and utilizing means of communications and probably also with communicating with citizens who are not expecting to be part of the democratic conversation in the form of contact with political parties.

LARS BARFOED: Taking into account how young the Bhutanese democracy is, all representatives of the parties I had the opportunity to meet with showed a genuine mature understanding of the nature of democracy and political parties. The main challenge is the fact that only two parties are represented in parliament, and it is difficult to maintain activity and members while awaiting the next election. Also the insufficient infrastructure that makes it difficult to travel around the country is a major challenge. Lastly, I will mention the fact that the parties do not have local units as an obstacle to develop a solid party organisation.

You also met some of the women who are planning to stand for election in the upcoming 2016 local elections. Today women have a 7% representation at the local level – and they have now set a 20% representation as the next goal. Is this maybe a bit too ambitious?

Kirsten Jensen – as well as Lars Barfoed – were surrounded by women at the BNEW gathering, all wishing to have a photo taken with the Danish guest. All enjoyed it!

Kirsten Jensen – as well as Lars Barfoed – were surrounded by women at the BNEW gathering, all wishing to have a photo taken with the Danish guest. All enjoyed it!

LARS BARFOED: Having experienced the energy and enthusiasm of these women, I do not regard it as too ambitious. Besides you should always set ambitious targets that are within what is possible, but at the same time will need of you to do the utmost.

KIRSTEN JENSEN: The goal of having 20 percent women elected at the local level seems to be a realistic one – since this method of working is new and will create some interest in itself. Also, the women are trained to stand up and express what they like to see happening in their society. On the other hand, some statistics imply that even women are not voting for women when the opportunity is there. Since parties are not allowed in local elections, another mechanism must help break patterns on who you support and vote for. Like schools have Democracy on the curriculum, the story must out that women can vote for women – and men too. At the upcoming elections you can even vote for women qualified through training.

Finally, DIPD is working on the basis of some “Danish ideas that can inspire”. Do you find this to be a realistic approach after having seen some of the work – or are the differences between the two countries too large to make this ‘inspiration’ possible?

KIRSTEN JENSEN: Ideas can certainly inspire – within the limits of the present constitution. For instance, we were presenting coalitions as something else than party-mergers, and overarching political agreements as a means to ensure that bottom up results of elections will not mean for instance a totally new strategy on education or infrastructure. One can also decide on a constructive way of political debate so that opportunities for cooperation are not excluded. I certainly also think that there are Bhutanese ideas that can inspire – as children learn English from the first grade and also have Democracy on the curriculum in a much more organized way than many schools in Denmark. I brought a lot of ideas home with me.

LARS BARFOED: It is for sure a realistic approach. We should of course not expect of Bhutan to copy our way of doing it, but we do have Danish practices and principles that can serve as an inspiration for a new democracy like Bhutan.

For More information

Contact Director Bjørn Førde at bjf@dipd.dk or Project Coordinator Susanne Adelhardt at suad@dipd.dk

BNEW ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING

The first gathering of women from all over Bhutan, organized by BNEW, took place in Paro in early 2012. Some of the women gathering on 19 November in Thimphu were also part of the gathering in Paro. It was obvious that much has happened in a few years!

A DIPD Report

More women at local level

While ‘only’ 304 women met on this occasion in Thimphu, nationwide several thousand women have benefitted from the training and empowerment offered by BNEW. Knowing many of the women, it was easy to see that they had gained in confidence and skills – communicating much better than when they started; explaining the reason why women should be given a chance very convincingly.

The meeting took place at a time when the countdown to the 2016 local elections has started. Exact dates are still not know, but larger cities will vote for the local councils at the start of the year, and then the rest of the local system will follow into at least June 2016.

It was therefore important for the annual meeting to offer the many women planning to stand for election a strong platform. This was offered by the launching of a new campaign setting clear targets for what should be achieved in 2016: increasing representation of women at local level from 7% to 20%. The new campaign was launched by Lyonpo Dorji Choden together with Kirsten Jensen. A video with the theme song of BNEW was also presented.

A poster tells the campaign message in very clear terms:

BNEW 3

 

In the 2011 local elections, only 7% of all those elected were women.

In the 2016 local elections, the target is to have 20% elected women.

Is this an ambitious target? Yes, definitely. In many other countries progress has not been so quick as it will be if 20% of all of the elected members of local councils are women after the 2016 elections. But it is also important to be ambitious, and with the hundreds of women being trained and empowered, it is possible!

 

 

BNEW – a bottom up initiative

Kirsten Jensen told the women of BNEW about her own career as a politician; how she started being politically active at an early age; how she was first elected to the European Parliament; and how she after that decided to be active at the municipal level. One reason for this is that at the local level things are very practical.

Lars Barfoed told the women about the role of women in his party, also mentioning that his wife is active in politics, in his party – and he will probably vote for her if she stands for office again in the future.

Once again it was both emotional and overwhelming to see the women coming together to contribute collectively to the strengthening and deepening of democracy in Bhutan. Of course this is about numbers – increasing the numbers of women; but it is certainly also about contributing to a democratic culture, which is still finding its true character in Bhutan, with gender equality in all areas being a key democratic feature and indicator.

It is often mentioned by the Bhutanese themselves that women have as many rights as men in Bhutanese society in general, and this is an important understanding when you develop strategies for increasing the numbers. However, the same could be argued for many other societies, including Denmark, and still they share the common feature of women not being represented to the same extent as men are.

BNEW is an initiative coming from the bottom up, with women deciding themselves to make an effort to be elected. This is important and necessary. Equally important are the efforts from the top and down – offering support for the women in different forms and shapes (maternity leave is one example); and also considering if particular efforts need to be undertaken for a period of time (like a quota system to help break down the walls).

For More information

Contact Director Bjørn Førde at bjf@dipd.dk or Project Coordinator Susanne Adelhardt at suad@dipd.dk