Innovations and Inspiration in Party Building
Two political party pioneers in party building visited DIPD and the Myanmar political parties for frank and inspiring talks on party building with an innovative approach.
With the conclusion of the April by elections in Myanmar, political parties now have a three-year window before the next general elections. During this period, political parties will have an opportunity to re-organize, strategize and remake themselves in advance of the 2020 elections. As Myanmar’s political parties are relatively recently established or re-established, this window also provides a valuable opportunity for parties to concentrate on strengthening themselves to serve as more robust and participatory institutions. To provide inspiration to parties to take advantage of this opportunity, at the beginning of May DIPD hosted a delegation of party leaders from two of the fastest growing and most innovative parties in its network—the Alternative Party of Denmark and the Aam Aadmi Party of India.
Creativity in Party Building
Both the Alternative Party and the Aam Aadmi Party were formed in the last five years. They have used innovative methods to attract members and win voters. The Alternative won nine seats in Denmark’s Parliament, and the Aam Aadmi Party became the dominant party in Delhi’s Assembly. The Alternative has used creative methods to increase public participation, such as their policy laboratories to develop their party’s platform. Aam Aadmi uses new technology for transparent and ethical financing of its campaigns, which has attracted voters dissatisfied with vote buying and other unethical practices in Indian campaigns. Each of these parties demonstrates how using creative new approaches can not only lead to more ethical campaigns and greater participation, but can also be winning strategies for parties.
Reaching out to new communities and constituencies
DIPD held a series of bilateral technical advisory sessions with political party leaders and political party alliance leaders, where the Alternative’s Tom Richter Hansen and Aam Aaadmi’s Raghav Chadha shared ideas and inspiration from their experiences in political party building and development. Myanmar’s political parties were particularly interested in the way in which the two parties had used new technologies for communication and new strategies to reach out to constituents to grow their membership and generate support from the younger generation. Raghav Chadha shared how Aam Aadmi had reached out to universities to generate greater youth participation, while also nominating young candidates to give young people an opportunity as representatives. Drawing on the Alternative’s innovative strategies, Tom Richter Hansen discussed how parties can increase participation by inviting the public to participate in policy formulation for the party, and also encourage party members to engage based on their specific policy interests.
Turning the challenges into opportunities
Party representatives participating in the bilateral meetings raised a number of interesting questions and ideas, claiming that the exchanges with the delegation were “quite useful” as they “consider lessons of how to reform themselves.” The party representatives also expressed interest in Aam Aadmi’s approaches for selecting clean candidates. In the area of reaching out to members and supporters, both Aam Aadmi’s techniques of using technology to cultivate a broader base of supporters and the Alternative’s intensive engagement of both members and non-members in policy program development contained useful lessons for Myanmar’s parties. On the final day of the delegation visit, the two visiting politicians shared ideas on a number of topics including party finance, party organizational development, and party communications with a multiparty group of political party leaders.
The innovations and inspiration shared by the delegation comes at an opportune time for parties as they have a chance to strategize and prepare for their political future. As U Tin Oo, the patron of the National League for Democracy remarked, “DIPD always gives us food for thought.” DIPD will continue to work with parties to provide technical support on how to incorporate relevant ideas communicated during the visit, helping parties to institutionalize themselves in a democratic and sustainable fashion.