In defence of party democracy – by Rohan Leppert

On Saturday 11 June, after ballots had closed at midnight, Linda Gale was declared elected the Convenor of the Victorian Greens.

Unlike her opponents, supported by party members campaigning through Twitter and Facebook, Linda – as she always does – played it straight and let her nomination statement speak for itself. The members chose experience, competence and calm over youth and unpredictability. Anyone reading both nomination statements would understand why Linda won, and why the two choices on offer were starkly different.

But this is The Greens in 2022, and the party has already shown that its rules are subject to appeal in the court of social media.

Democratic organisations only work if the outcomes of ballots are accepted. If they are not accepted, the entire legitimacy of the organisation is cast in doubt.

Linda did her part, rearticulating the party’s trans and gender diverse policies and her commitment to inclusivity, anti-discrimination and genuine social justice. But none of our senior elected representatives used their immense authority to do the same. On the contrary; they doubled down. Far from reassuring members that they are not “unsafe”, Senator Janet Rice once again sided with the aggressors.

That’s how we reached a crisis point on Tuesday night, with Janet, formerly a champion for consensus decision making and democratic participation, but surely now the foremost threat to party democracy and the rights of members, declaring that a democratic ballot of members of the party she represents must be ignored.

Does anyone seriously suggest that The Greens is not the most obviously and obsequiously LGBTIQ-friendly party in the country?

And so this crisis is not about the choices between two candidates for Convenor, their respective views on sex and gender, and whether those views pose a threat to members’ safety. If that were ever the case, the matter would have been addressed before the election. This crisis – and it is a crisis – is about a higher principle: whether we are a party governed by its members and the rules and decisions those members make, or whether membership is now irrelevant in the age of social media.

What we are witnessing is a party painfully going through the process of deciding whether it is a democratic political party at all.

Source: In defence of party democracy – by Rohan Leppert

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