The Critical Need For Proper Succession Planning In Political Parties
Mrs Shameen Thakur – Rajbansi
Leader Of The Minority Front
Date: 03 February 2018
In a world where politics is still dominated by men, women suffer the same fate of family politics when only male heirs feature in the succession planning.
The question and the answer to which should interest prospective voters for the upcoming 2019 General Elections should be who is going to lead each party and how? The relevance to the voter is simple: political stability, accountability and continuity for their return on voter investment for the next 5 years.
It is true that political party leaders will come and go but how this happens has a lasting effect on the party and its ability to exist thereafter. Without a succession plan a party paves its path to extinction, thereafter it is a party leader’s obligation to personally groom leaders because leadership change is a reality.
For big or small parties, the sudden death or departure of a key political leader needs to be handled properly, otherwise it can paralyse party functioning and shock the voter base. Hence leadership renewal ensures party sustainability and responsiveness to increasing uncertainty and changing expectations for the electret.
Political wisdom even in our current political landscape shows that the ability of the political party to survive is based on its capacity to produce high quality leaders over time which means commitment of top leadership levels to mentor and coach those with the ability to take over top posts in the party. As Kimble (2005) defined succession planning as a dynamic ongoing process of systematically identifying, assessing and developing leadership talent to meet the future needs of the organisation and to ensure its sustainability. Therefore, been pro – active prepares the party of an unexpected event; addresses the need of the party growth and continuity as senior leadership ages and retires and ensures that the right of the people are in place to function at their best both now and in the future.
Without a clear succession policy or plan, transitions become treacherous with political schemas and charlatans creating havoc whilst positioning themselves and allies to usurp power (Bradwel Mhonderwa, 2011).
A transparent succession plan will pre – empt much of this bloodletting and drama full of conspiracy, public posturing and threats which play out in the media.
To a large extent the lack of succession planning is made more complex by the play of big money in politics and power networks around the leadership. In South Africa for example, the fixing of electoral funding and transparency of donors will sanitize our politics of the ills of big money.
It is therefore becoming increasingly important in contemporary political parties who the party leader is and who selects the party leader (Cross and Blairs, 2012). The democratizing of the selection process would most likely improve the electoral performance of the party but there are potential consequences of decentralisation and selection and similarly if the ideologically root is taken. Such strategic decisions also means the investment of time and money in determining which candidate has the greatest electoral appeal compared to where party members choose.
Many parties in South Africa follow the Westminster system in classifying party processes in 1 of 3 categories, been only party members or rank and file members or party members are excluded. The second category gives more flexibility and inclusiveness which increases the formal change of influence of who selects the party leader. Thirdly, where party members are excluded and replaced by electoral boards.
All in all, the office of the party leader is often considered as the gate keeper and the methods to elect the leader becomes a key institutional cross road, but if political parties are willing to re – invent themselves then a best practice succession plan for leadership election can also be seen as a good indicator of the democratic degree of the wider organisational dynamics of a party which may become an acid test of intra – party democracy (Cappellini, 2016).
For voters a succession plan or leadership election method must be considered as tick boxes to be filled among other things when choosing a political party to vote for in the 2019 General Elections but remember leadership is without a gender.