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Term

Platform - commonly used term to describe the values, principles and standards of the political party.

Issue of Concern

The issue of concern is the degradation of the values, principles and standards of the political party to the point where the party is being lead by people who don't adhere to the party's official platform.

Details

Political parties often have a written statement that lists what they value, and what their standards and beliefs are. However many of the enrolled members of a political party have never read that statement, and do not know what the official values and beliefs of the political party are. There can be misunderstandings about what the mission of the political party actually is. It has happened that individuals and groups have "hijacked" a political party for their own interests, with no real regard for the official, written statement of what the political party "stands for."

It is a problem if a political party acts in ways that do not align with the official written statement of what guides the party. Values, beliefs and standards are meaningless unless they are adhered to and enforced. The members of the political party would like to know what the political party stands for, and be able to trust that it's politicians will adhere to that.

Research

The history of political parties shows that what they stand for and the issues they care about change drastically over time. Some political parties seem to be almost the opposite of what they originally stood for. Research doesn't need to be done to see current affects of popular leaders in a political party. A political party can become know as the party of a leading individual rather than it's stated platform.

What have I tried

I haven't tried preventing a takeover of a political party. I'm trying to generate interest in how to maintain good standards in a political party by posting this question.

Question

What policies or procedures can political parties implement to prevent a takeover by those with different standards?

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Keep in mind that the role of political parties varies a lot around the world. This post is based on my own experience as a member of a political party in Germany. The political cultures in other countries might be a lot different.


A party basically has three unofficial "castes" of party members.

  • The "silent members". Those who pay their membership fees and otherwise don't do much. It is obvious that when they speak, they speak for themselves and not for the party. Their ideological purity does not matter, as long as they keep paying their membership fees. If they finance a cause which doesn't align with their believes, that's bad for them, but good for the party.

  • The "active members". Those who come to party meetings, show up at rallies waving flags and sign up for activities like distributing advertising material, collecting signatures or talking to undecided voters directly. Those do speak on behalf of the party occasionally, but only in a very small manner, so the damage they can do is limited. But still, they can hurt the party. When they have views which are very different than their peers, they will usually notice rather quickly. The other active members will show them that they are not welcome and exclude them from party activities.

  • The "party elite". Party officials or election candidates. Those are usually elected by other party members, and those who cast their votes mostly belong to the "active members" caste. Their words and actions are usually perceived as those by the party itself. So their ideological purity is usually one of the main concerns of those who vote for them. So anyone who does not conform to the party line in their words and actions will not have much of a chance to get elected into the elite.

OK, but what if an organisation with an ideology which goes contrary to the party decides to do a takeover? Sign up en-masse for the party, become active, bully out the previous actives by their mass and then elect elite members they want?

The first line of defense against this strategy is usually a party carta which includes a list of organisations which are considered incompatible with the party ideology. Anyone who is or was a member of these organisations is not allowed to join the party. Among those organisations are usually other political parties and political interest groups with ideologies which go contrary to basic principles of the party. In some cases there is just a prohibition of dual-membership (usually the case with other parties), in some cases it's a ban for life (with radical political organisations).

The second line of defense is a process for kicking out individual problem-members for repeated violation of the basic principles of the party. This is usually done through a party-internal "court" which has the right to exclude members for misbehavior, including those in elected positions.

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