Tuesday, August 23, 2011

NDPs National Council Could Decide Next Leader

The NDP does not have a leader, and to make things worse, the next one might be chosen even before there's a vote.

How the New Democratic Party holds their leadership vote in January will be important because it will affect who will win it. And even though determining how the vote will be conducted could decide who wins it, members will not get a say in the process. Instead of an open and transparent process, it will be left to a few party elite in Ottawa who might just impose a voting system that guarantees their candidate wins.

The NDP's constitution does not give any specifics on how the new Leader will be selected other than stating it will be done by preferential ballot. That one caveat however allows for many different types of leadership votes, each with bias to potential candidates.

The constitution gives the power to create all other rules for selecting the new leader to the National Council, a group of party elites and labour officials who already have close ties to anyone who will run. And if the National Council is so inclined, they can easily draft rules that will ensure their candidate wins.

For instance if the NDP's National Council decides in their backroom they don't want Thomas Mulcair to be leader they will adopt a true one-member-one-vote system. This offers every member a vote and would give provinces with high membership like BC, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and Ontario more power and would dilute Quebec, thus severely weakening Thomas Mulcair's chances. If they really didn't want Mulcair to win they would give 25% of the vote to Labour organizations, as he is seen as the most right-leaning potential candidate, his chances would be close to zero.

Of course the National Council might want Mulcair to win, in that case they could make the leadership vote weighted, just like the Conservatives and the Liberals. Under this system all ridings, no matter how many members, are given 100 points, the percent of the vote in each riding translates into points for respective Candidates. This system gives Mulcair an advantage when you consider Quebec has 1/4 of all the ridings and very few members to win over.

For example, under a weighted-vote system if Libby Davies won 60% of the vote in the riding of Vancouver-South, where there might be 500 NDP members, she would only get 60 points, but if Thomas Mulcair won a complete riding in Quebec even though it only had 8 members, he would get 100 points. If this leadership race has many candidates, which it looks like there will be, the other contenders could split support in other ridings, which would allow Mulcair to most likely take all of Quebec and the top job.

The rules of how a party selects its leader are extremely important, in the past they've either greatly influenced the results or outright determined them. In 2003 the NDP had mandated organized labour would have 25% of the vote, former Leader Jack Layton, with ties to many of those same organizations that were based out of Toronto, won handily.

In 2004 Stephen Harper became Conservative Leader through a weighted-vote system. Because of those rules, though he still won with 56.2%, he would have won with 68.9% if the system had been one-member-one-vote. In this Conservative case, the difference between two different set of leadership voting rules affected Harper's vote by 13%. Clearly such an impact could be manipulated by the NDP's National Council, and could mean the difference between a leadership candidate winning or losing.

No one can know whether the orange elite will impose rules that purposely favour one candidate over another, but the reason no one can know is because it's not a transparent process. If one-member-one-vote or a weighted-vote system was proposed to NDP members, one candidate may still benefit but at least it would be democratic.

With the NDP's National Council determining its Leadership selection process in some backroom, the party looks less new and democratic, and more old and shady.


Note: I am aware of this article but it is unsubstantiated by the NDP's constitution, appears to be based on the 2003 Leadership process which was under a previous constitution, and the reporter has not informed me of his sources.

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