Suriname political parties have shown broad enthusiasm to develop develop their party programmes with a new tool.
On Saturday 16 February, around sixty representatives of the Surinamese political parties, including three Ministers and three MPs, have discussed the use of a so-called “VoteMatch” as an instrument for political parties to develop party manifestos.
Due to the ethnical focus of political parties in Suriname in the past there was no urgent need for political parties to develop an electoral manifesto. Recently, the role of ethnicity is fading away slowly and there exists a growing need for the electoral base to know what parties are standing for.
Since 1987, with the implementation of the Law on political parties, parties are obliged to develop a manifesto in order to run for elections. However, most party programmes are written without consultation of party members and the quality is insufficient.
Manifestos for sustainable parties
The director of the Dutch Institute for Political Participation (IPP) Nel van Dijk informed the participants about the importance of a party programme for the sustainability of a political party. She also explained how using a so-called “VoteMatch” can assist in this process.
In The Netherlands the VoteMatch is used as an educational tool for voters in order to give them an advice what party to vote for. The political parties in Suriname are now considering the use of the reversed model of the VoteMatch solely to develop party programmes.
Minister of Internal Affairs, Hassankhan, stressed the importance of improving the quality of such documents: “At this moment electoral manifestos of Surinamese parties can be seen as our birthday wish lists.”
Consultation of party members
The reversed VoteMatch will force political parties to develop their own arguments on several positions and to create internal discussions with the ranks and files, which gives them more insight into the support for their policies. Furthermore, the VoteMatch enables political parties to strategically position themselves compared to other parties and possibly change their programme.
At the end of the workshop, all representatives of the political parties expressed their interest in working with the VoteMatch in order to improve their manifestos. Political parties have one month to decide whether to commit to this process.
To develop a useful VoteMatch and in order to compare the positions of political parties it is necessary that at least six parties of ruling and opposition parties will participate in this programme. The complete process will take more than one year.
After this year, the political parties might consider to use the VoteMatch as a public electoral and educational tool in the next elections in 2010.
About NIMD in Suriname
This workshop was organized by the Democracy Unit, which executes the NIMD programme in Suriname. The Democracy Unit is a multidisciplinary unit of the Anton de Kom University in Paramaribo.