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Not just another political party

On November 8, members voted an overwhelming 'YES!' to the proposal that DiEM25 should be able to compete in elections includng the European elections of 2019, while remaining a movement.

The European Parliament. CC.

Introduction

We consider the model of national parties which form flimsy alliances at the level of the European Parliament to be obsolete. While the fight for democracy-from below (at the local, regional or national levels) is necessary, it is nevertheless insufficient if it is conducted without an internationalist strategy toward a pan-European coalition for democratising Europe.

European democrats must come together first, forge a common agenda, and then find ways of connecting it with local communities and at the regional and national level.

- Extract from the Manifesto of DiEM25

From the day DiEM25 was inaugurated in Berlin, in February 2016, we have been saying that we have no urge to contest elections, in the daily hustle of what passes for “politics”. We would rather continue in our chosen areas of activism, while supporting existing progressive political parties.

Alas, Europe’s crisis and slow descent into a quagmire of incompetent authoritarianism does not give us the right to do so. The window for us to effect change is closing and this has become even more pressing after the recent German election which killed off the last remaining hope for a federalist democratic push by Macron and Merkel.

Time is running short. If DiEM25 is to make any impact on the 2019 pan-European (EP) elections; if our movement really wants to act before Europe disintegrates; if we want to redress climate change or the dominance of xenophobia before it is too late, we must decide soon.

We need to seize every opportunity available to us. This is especially important for our “European New Deal” economic agenda – our proposals (a) to stabilise the Eurozone by measures that can be implemented without treaty changes or new institutions, and (b) to forge closer integration with other European countries either in the EU (but not in the Eurozone) or in the periphery of the EU (or moving out of the EU, e.g. the UK).

So while our critique of party politics and the obsolete nature of current political formations remains valid, enabling Europeans to vote for DiEM25’s proposals will allow us to add an additional tool through which our movement can influence the political landscape.

Existing options to present our agenda to European citizens/voters

The European political landscape is vast and varied. If we want to take our agenda to the ballotbox, we must be flexible and adaptable. Here are the means we have employed so far:

  1. asking candidates to sign a charter committing them to DiEM25 policies (and hold them accountable to their word!)
  2. endorsing candidates, parties or coalitions with a clear-cut political programme that is in line with our Progressive Agenda
  3. working for a progressive alliance whenever possible
  4. creating a quasi-permanent partnership with local parties that might act as our ‘electoral wing’ in a given state, region or municipality (a movement that is setting out to attract parties, rather than the other way around )

The proposal

We propose to add a further option to those mentioned above:

Creating a DiEM25 'electoral wing' which will enable our movement to act as a catalyst that brings about a transnational, pan-European party list, uniting political actors who are ready to embrace DiEM25’s agenda. This will enable DiEM25 supporters all across Europe, as well as parties, social movements, NGOs and citizens groups that support our principles and agenda, to join hands in a pan-European political revolution.

DiEM25 will thus remain a movement, whose members guide its policies as they now do, while developing an electoral wing which catalyses political developments.

Nature of DiEM25’s ‘electoral wing’

A revolutionary, historic first- DiEM25’s electoral wing will take, in each country, the form of a political party that represents our transnational, pan-European political movement in selected electoral contests. It will not necessarily contest elections, preferring to support other political actors (e.g. entering an electoral alliance with them) or simply abstaining, but also ready to contest elections if DiEM25 members all over Europe decide that the conditions in the said country are ripe.

  • Transnationality- DiEM25’s “electoral wing” will be the first transnational party list with a genuine transnational decision-making structure, a truly pan-European campaign, and election manifestos, as well as policy papers in general, for each country party being approved by all DiEM25 members across Europe. DiEM25 thus remains the transnational movement which authors the manifesto and policies of each member-state manifestation of our ‘electoral wing’. As an example, our German, French, Italian etc. members will have to approve our Greek election manifesto, and our Greek, Italian, French etc. members the German one.
  • Inclusive and participatory in policy design - DiEM25’s ‘electoral wing’ will campaign in each country within the scope of DiEM25’s Progressive Agenda for Europe & its 7 pillars. DiEM25’s inclusive and participatory White Paper process will continue at the pan-European level, as today, feeding into the manifestos of our ‘electoral wing’ in different countries. The task of the ‘electoral wing’ will be to reach the mainstream and to imbue national politics with this transnational DiEM25 agenda.
  • Transnational candidates- DiEM25 will consider cross-national candidacies, beginning with the May 2019 European Parliament election; e.g. a German DiEM25 member running in Greece, a Greek in Germany, an Italian in France, a Belgian in Spain etc. (electoral legislation constraints notwithstanding). Thus DiEM25 will put into action transnationality in a manner that helps create the European Demos that Europe’s future democracy necessitates.

  • Non-Partisan - At the heart of our political mission lies the simple truth that if Europe is not democratised, it will disintegrate. DiEM25’s call has been answered by women and men of various political backgrounds, brought together by the aim of driving through a transformation to our political system, and an upgrade to our democracy. Hence, DiEM25’s “electoral wing” is not “partisan” in the traditional political sense of being guided by political tribalism. The scale and importance of our mission instructs us to look beyond political cleavages and petty party politics, and instead support any and all who agree with us that Europe can and must be democratised, and join us in forming the force that ushers in the internationalist democracy of the future.

  • Optional membership - True to our promise of non-partisanship, and as a demonstration of how DiEM25 challenges the standard relationship between movement and members, there will be absolutely no compulsion of DiEM25 members automatically to become members of its “electoral wing” in their country of residence: Membership of any political party or alliance set up by DiEM25 will be on an opt-in basisfor each of its members.

  • Multiple membership- DiEM25 members will not only have the option of not joining our ‘electoral wing’ in the country of their residence but will also retain the right to continue to belong to other political parties, as long as the latter’s principles and policy agenda do not clash with DiEM25’s Manifesto.

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    All membership debates and votes - The electoral manifesto and charter of national parties under the DiEM25 ‘electoral wing’ will be debated and approved via all-member DiEM25 internal votes - including, naturally, all DiEM25 members independently of whether they have joined the electoral wing or not.

  • Mobilisation - Any pan-European movement without an electoral presence (at least in the forthcoming European Parliament elections) tends to impotence. And a pan-European party list without a coherent transnational pan-European movement behind it can only repeat the failures of the past. We need both. By acquiring an ‘electoral wing’, DiEM25 will not lose its character as a movement. On the contrary: It will gain strength by effectively pushing its policy agenda on the canvas of pre-election campaigns and, later, within parliamentary processes. The unprecedented overlap of major crises facing Europe call for, concurrently: (i) a comprehensive political response and (ii) the transnational mobilisation of social pressure on governmental institutions to ensure change. We conceive a “party” as a mechanism to facilitate and expedite social mobilisation, giving a clear end-point to our demands for change. Our transnational party list will, besides seeking to win electoral support from voters, serve to provide a clear theory of change to our mobilisations on the ground and to facilitate those at European level.

Motivation

The option of forging an alliance that promotes DiEM25’s Progressive Agenda for Europe in Brussels comprising existing nation-state-based parties does not exist. Most progressive parties are already divided, with sizeable factions within them clearly opposed to our radical Europeanism. If we insist on such an alliance we shall get trapped in opportunistic alliances that condemn DiEM25’s Progressive Agenda for Europe to obscurity and DiEM25 to a certain eclipse.

We are, of course, open to creating alliances. But to create alliances that put DiEM25’s Progressive Agenda for Europe at their centre, DiEM25 must develop its own electoral instrument, its own ‘electoral wing’. Once DiEM25’s ‘electoral wing’ is up and running, collaboration with political actors genuinely interested in DiEM25’s Progressive Agenda will become more feasible and honest.

Procedure

Step 1: DiEM25 will register a political party in as many European (not just EU) countries as it is feasible. These parties will have a new name consisting of a title selected for the particular country to be accompanied by DiEM25 - e.g. XXXXX-DiEM25. (The option of calling the party simply DiEM25 remains.)

  • Step 2: DiEM25 will seek alliances with existing political parties in the specific country. In case an agreement is reached, along the lines of our Progressive Agenda for Europe and the European New Deal, the party list to be presented to voters will be labelled YYYYY-DiEM25, where YYYYY is the name of the party with which the alliance has been struck. E.g. Razem-DiEM25 in Poland.
  • Step 3: If no such alliance is possible, DiEM25 members across Europe will decide, in an all-member vote, whether XXXXX-DiEM25 will contest the elections on its own or not at all in the said country.

Coordination: DiEM25’s Electoral Forum

To ensure that the transnational party list, and the various country-specific manifesta, are in line with the above and with DiEM25’s principles and procedures, DiEM25 will inaugurate an Electoral Forum comprising members of the CC, the various NCs and representatives of the political actors with whom DiEM25’s ‘electoral wing’ is collaborating.

Which elections? Our horizon must be 2019

The purpose of inaugurating DiEM25’s ‘electoral wing’ is to seize the historic opportunity presented by the May 2019 European Parliament Election. Besides the latter, the question of which other local, regional or national elections we contest, and which not, will be decided by all-member votes on a case-by-case basis.

The 2019 elections offer us a chance to harness Europe’s next transnational democratic moment. While traditional parties remain visionless, trapped in the limits of national competition, and (ab)using the European Parliament Elections as a glorified opinion poll prior to their next national elections, DiEM25 can make the pan-European electoral process its platform for Europe’s first genuinely transnational campaign.

This will be a stupendous chance to show that another Europe already exists and is ready to make its presence felt from the ground up. All across our continent.

About the author

The Democracy in Europe Movement 2025, or DiEM25, is a pan-European political movement launched by former Greek finance minister, Yanis Varoufakis. Their movement aims to reform the European Union's existing institutions to create a "fully-fledged democracy with a sovereign parliament respecting national self-determination and sharing power with national Parliaments, regional assemblies and municipal councils."

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