by Sarah Aupong – EM TV News, Port Moresby
Strong political parties play a significant role in maintaining a strong democracy within the country.
Registered political parties in PNG have to work a lot harder to be able to perform their roles effectively.
Since 2013, the office of the Integrity of political parties and candidates has been running workshops to remind registered political candidates of their duties.
“For any democracy to survive, you must have strong political organisations,” Dr Gelu, Registrar of Political Parties said while emphasising the role of robust political parties in the country during one of four workshops that will be conducted this year.
The aim of these workshops is to build a strong link between the general public and the political parties in the country. Dr Gelu says once this link is established, the public will be able to better hold politicians and their candidates accountable.
But a lot of work still needs to be done.
“Political parties in PNG have been described as weak in many areas. Especially when it comes to their organisations, when it comes to their structure, when it comes to their membership and policies,” Dr Gelu said.
Changing the culture of “one man executives” that exists in a lot of the current political parties is a huge challenge for Dr Gelu’s office.
Another “worrying” factor was the failure of parties in holding regular party conventions where important issues are discussed among party members and the executives.
Dr Gelu says this “culture” needs to be changed because having strong political parties “will sustain political stability in the country.”
“People will come people will go, but parties remain, so parties can only remain and they can only be strong if the membership of those parties, they remain loyal to that particular party.”
Of the more than 30 parties now registered, only a handful are performing to expectations. A sign of change in party culture in PNG would mean, the public can easily differentiate one party from another based on the policies they have on social issues such as education and health.
“Right now in PNG, it is very different.”
He says another challenge to building a robust party culture is the number of parties that are now registered.
Dr Gelu says while 12 parties have been deregistered over the past month due to non-compliance with the Organic Law, the number is still too high.
“10 to 15 (number of parties), it will be easy to manage and by then we should start building strong parties.”
The current workshop will run for three days and political parties representatives from Australia and the Solomon Islands will also be participating.