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Wednesday, August 11, 2010

For a PES primary - José Reis Santos

XXI century politics is demanding. Probably more demanding than in any time in history. Due to the democratization of education, to the possibilities to travel and to the globalization of information European citizens are – today – better educated, informed and sophisticated. This allows them to have a level of political awareness never witnessed in the past, and to have higher standards and expectations from politics, in general, and party politics in particular.

Political parties and politicians know this, they were – after all – the main promoters for the changes we are experiencing in the new millennium. But, interestingly enough, just at the moment civil society peaks its ability to get involved in general politics – as it has better tools to do so – political society stills hides behind obscure processes of internal party democracy. This helps to explain why regular citizens are not voting in European and national elections – they just can’t feel represented by the politicians in the ballots, as some are chosen behind closed doors, in the clubs and alleys dominated by the party hierarchical system. This in a time where information is wide spread and access is not limited.

Everybody was fascinated by the Obama success and his strategy campaign plan, mainly due to two factors: the level of his discourse and the ability to engage party members and regular supporters in his political project. The world of politics has never been the same since, and we’ve all seen how different politicians, from different parties, have tried to develop new tools and campaigns designed to involve and engage activists in politics.

So, what does it need to adapt this experience to the European reality? What can we do in order to reconnect party politics and European citizens?

We have seen, in the last years, several political parties trying to close this gap, usually introducing primary systems in their internal elections. We saw that in the Italian left, we are seeing that now in the Spanish PSOE. As we address the European level of politics, could we expect the setting up of a competitive primary system which could raise the awareness of European citizens towards the PES? I strongly believe so, especially after the decision in the last PES Congress – in Prague – where it was politically decided to present a single candidate to the 2014 European elections.

So, how will this candidate be chosen? By the PES Presidium? By the party Members? By the Congress? All these options represent old ways of doing politics, and I strongly believe that the European citizens, in particular progressive citizens, do expect more from us – Socialists, Social democrats and Labourites. They expect that we adapt our ways into the new game of politics, where democracy is cleaner, engaging and with genuine participation. And within the framework of European politics I have no doubts that is the Party of European Socialists which has the better conditions to embrace this new set of tasks to re-engage citizens in politics.

That’s why we are promoting this PES primary campaign. Because we believe that we are at a point in history where that is what is expected from us and because the European Union desperately needs a change in their leaders and set of politics; change that can only come from the progressive family: the PES.

So, and in sum, setting up a primary system to choose the PES candidate for the 2014 European elections could be the first step towards the political change we want in Europe, in 2014.

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