Editorial: rights ravished

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Photo: Andres Haabu / Postimees

Sole power breeding forced partyzation and undermining democracy

Party membership is a vital civil right, any violation thereof threatening the health of democracy. By Political Parties Act, only a narrow list of such officials as not allowed party-membership is prescribed. For forced entry into or membership of a political party, Penal Code foresees pecuniary punishment or imprisonment up to a year. 

The reason being simple: in a representative democracy, the role of political parties cannot be overemphasised. For that very reason, the parties are subject to public scrutiny monitoring quality of decisions taken, transparency of financing etc. With bitterness of soul, various top politicians have complained how parties and thus representative democracy as such is being thus disparaged. Sure: at times, criticism may be unfounded; even so, equally problematically, parties have forgotten to take a deep enough look in the mirror.

Recently, Postimees pointed out town and commune officials in office «for life». In some ways, stability is good and beneficial; stagnation, clinging to power at any cost, is not. Over time, sole power poses a serious threat to democracy – not on state level only, but locally as well. All of a sudden, one party is «the right one». For starters, the politisation-cancer grabs the executive power, thereafter slowly spreading to other agencies which will, in one way or another, be rewarded for their attitudes. Total power totally corrupts.

An active young teacher having a world view and joining a party, desiring to have a say in local matters, should in no way restrict his work in a classroom. Even so, real life proves otherwise. Today’s Postimees features a story on Pavel Kuznetsov, Teacher of the Year 2012 at Narva Soldino Gymnasium, running for city council in ranks of soc dems. At the start of the school year, under pressure from headmaster belonging to Centre Party, the man filed for resignation.

Forced partyzation is hard to prove. Nevertheless, rights to join parties should not undergo general restrictions. What helps is stories like this leaking out, revealing some parties’ weird notions of democracy... putting it mildly. The oft-repeated phrase «everybody does that» is a miserable argument indeed – and a sure way to dig one’s own political grave. 

Pavel Kuznetsov is definitely right in claiming that he is not the victim, in this case, even while losing his job. The circle of victims is not limited to the headmaster and school in question. Rather, forced partyzation victimises the entire society, the parties included – having just suffered another blow at their image.