Cause and Effect in European Politics and Law

It's Time To Specify Election Mandates

Adelina Marini, July 17, 2013

Bulgaria's Prime Minister Plamen Oresharski, subjected to mass protests for more than a month now because of obvious connections with the oligarchy and for serving private interests, refuses to resign with the argument that he has just been elected (in May) by Bulgarian voters and will finish the mandate given by them. His Spanish counterpart Mariano Rajoy is also subjected to strong pressure, although still not in the form of protests, because of growing signs of corruption. In spite of the new revelations, Mr Rajoy pronounced at a news conference that he intended to finish the mandate given to him by Spanish voters notwithstanding his solidly dropping rating.

For sure these two prime ministers are not the only ones who refuse to resign or to respond to the demands of protesters, in spite of the solid data for their incapability, arguing that they got a mandate from the voters. This can mean only one thing. It is time to change the way in which voters give a mandate! Usually, voters decide who to vote for by tradition (they like for years a party and vote for it no matter if it always has a good programme), or on the basis of pre-election promises. In many cases, there is also a protest vote which is a symptom of exhaustion of the political model.

It is time this to change and voters be allowed to write the "mandates". Let parties send their political messages and have their goals, but they should move within strictly fixed frameworks. For instance, in the mandate of every government the conditions for resignation should be strictly inscribed. Those are corruption; incompetence; conflict of interest; harming taxpayers; working in the interest of a certain group instead of public interest; abuse with influence, with public money; incapability to handle daily tasks (the list is not complete). A suspension of mandate should be demanded also when the government suspends or reduces to the minimum its communication with voters. In spite of the granted mandate, every government should seek the opinion of citizens, not wait to see what the outcome will be in 3 years time.

Initially, we thought that the Arab spring was possible thanks to the social networks and before that it simply waited to flourish. But now, when there are protests and civil unrest all over the world, it is clear that this is due to the fact that democracy and the way people are governed do not respond to contemporary conditions. If before governance depended on common sources of information which, as a rule, are slower and not that accessible, in the era of small devices, the Internet and social networks, democracy is mediated by individual sources of information. That is why, more and more ridiculous sound remarks of the type "millions voted for us, we cannot succumb to the demands of several tens of thousands".

Nowadays, informed voters are those who can easily and quickly articulate a position, express it clearly through various channels, without this meaning that they speak only for themselves. It is not necessary to wait what mainstream media will serve them about a draft legislation because they can read it themselves. They can evaluate whether the draft is good or bad by themselves. They can also organise a discussion group or a pressure group. These are processes that cannot remain outside the political system just because it is too old. Present time clearly shows that every citizen matters and we cannot talk about "representative democracy" when governments are elected by half or even less of voters, while the rest remain unrepresented and therefore discontent but duly paying their taxes and contributing through labour and talents for the common good.

That is why it is high time the political system to adapt according to the new conditions. A good beginning would be to attach to the election code a specific mandate. That mandate should go hand in hand with the ballots so that it is known to every voter. The details are a subject of discussion and are not that important at this stage. What is important is to realise that we live in a new era and protests will not cease until the political system responds by beginning to take into account the new realities. From now on, every government is threatened not to complete its "mandate" if it claims that the only form of communication with citizens is elections.