Sunday, March 26, 2006

Emigrants' party

S. will certainly remember how I freaked out when we talked about the emerging "Party of the Bulgarian emigrants". I've been re-thinking this morning the issue of emigrants' right to vote and it reminded me of that conversation.

First I would like to come to clear with my negative feelings on the matter. Yes, I do have a negative attitude to the over-active emigrants who wish to get involved in the national politics. Yes, to me it is not "getting involved" but "interfering". And yes, I am perfectly aware it is an emotional reaction provoked by the "oh-we-are-so-much-better-than-you" attitude shown by some emigrants. I can't help it, and no political correctness, or tolerance, or even logical arguments will make me to pretend else.

Now we come to the rational part. Here the two things - emigrants' party and emigrants' right to vote - should be separated.

Emigrants' party:

According to the Bulgarian Political Parties Act, art. 2, "Political parties are voluntary associations of Bulgarian citizens possessing right to vote" (excuse my English). Double citizenship is allowed (art. 8). I need to check if a political party can have its seat outside of the country - I think it cannot, although the Political Parties Act remains silent on the matter - which is certainly a gap. In either case political parties can have local structures abroad if it is allowed by the legislation of the correspondent country - or even if it is not, they can still gather informally.

Thus it should be clear that therŠµ is not and - even more important - there cannot be - any legal obstacle before the establishment of an emigrants' party, so far as its founders and members still have their Bulgarian citizenship and irrespective of their place of residence.

My argument is that such a party would not have a legitimate founding principle and cannot represent - by definition - a legitimate group of the society (I am not explaining here the difference between "legal" or "legally allowed" and "legitimate" - if you have an issue mixing them, solve it yourself). There is not a legitimate group interest to be politically represented at the legislative body of a country none of the group members lives in. I have heard many times the point that they are being united by their common desire to return to their home country and therefore they want the country to be better. Nice, I have no issue with this. I also want the country to be better since I already live there, but I am not making a party of the residents on this basis. Emigration or returning is a matter of personal choice, not a political issue. "I will return when the economic growth reaches 10%" - my ass. "Impoving the standard of living will lead to crowds of emigrants coming back" - err... ok, it might prove true in the long run but now it is just political talk en gros.

I am not even going to delve in detail into the argument that long time emigrants do not know well enough the local situation and context. You either understand that creating legislation is something much more complicated then just putting together a text according to an algoritm and avoiding possible bugs, or tranferring foreign know-how, or you don't.

And then imagine how absurd will be the situation of the Emmigrnat party's MPs. What are they going to do? Come to Sofia temporarily as their colleagues from other places in the country do? Travelling regularly to visit their voters - either on parliament expenses or bringing forward the most noble sacrifice of covering the expenses themselves? How often will they be able to afford it? Settle back for good, thus stopping being emigrants? So petty of me discussing such minor inconveniences, isn't it - we are speaking here of Making the Country a Better Place after all.

Emigrants' right to vote

Now this is much more simple than I used to think and this is the conclusion of this morning. I used to speculate over parallels with local elections as well as over the effects of the globalisation but it is all not necessary. I might not be happy because of the emotional reasons descibed above, but it is clear: emigrants with Bulgarian citizenship have the right to vote. Period. People who don't really care, don't go anyways.

Before closing the topic, I want to make something clear. I have just admitted, some might say, that emigrants who want to vote, really do care. Therefore, it may be argued, I am inconsistent when denying the idea of an Emigrants' party. I am not inconsistent. I welcome every emigrant becoming a member or participating in the activity of any party in their home country. I reject specifically the idea of an "emigrant" party - a party supposed to represent the group interests of the emigrants, who I do not accept as a valid group in the context of political representation.

I am also aware I have not defined "emigrant" (e.g. number of years of residence abroad). Use your common sense, it usually helps, ok?


Anonymous Mordred said...

"You either understand that creating legislation is something much more complicated then just putting together a text according to an algoritm and avoiding possible bugs, or tranferring foreign know-how, or you don't."

Ouch. ;)

"...Emigration or returning is a matter of personal choice, not a political issue...."

I fail to see here how political issues are not matters of personal choice. And it is like the notion of having a party of pensioners - as long as people have a common motive, they should be able to organise into political units for backing up that motive.

Backing up one step, creating legislation should be left to experts, say what you will. And if emigrant MPs are bound to protect the interests of the other emigrants, shouldn't they care about legislative features that concern external affairs, hence they will suffer no impediments from not being up to the 'local' situation?

No, the absurdity of the notion comes from the fact that the apparent motive of emigrants is to return when 'things get better'. Well, "let's make things better" is NOT a valid political credo (or maybe it is 'supervalid', being the superset of all possible credoes?)

Valid credoes are "let's increase the taxes so things get better" or "lets decrease the taxes", etc., etc., thus easily putting the holders of those credoes in already existing categories on the political front, hence no practical need of an "Emigrants' party" or "Pensioner party".

4:15 pm  
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12:19 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with the last two paragraphs. "Let's make things better" is the superset of all possible credoes and thus not a valid credo per se.
I do believe though, that there is more to the emigrants' motives to form a party, than just this empty phrase.
There is certainly the notion that they have more know-how (or unique know-how) than people who haven't been much abroad. And I'm not comparing emigrants with Bulgarians living in Bulgaria here, but rather, people who've been out there and seen (and experienced themselves) different models of society, and people who are completely clueless as to alternatives to the Bulgarian situation.
Emigrants have the potential to generate ideas. I am not sure they have what it takes to turn these ideas into legislation (localization is an issue, agreed -solutions can't be just copy-pasted to other contexts). But I am absolutely positive that people who have experienced life in a foreign country have a somewhat broadened horizon. This could as well mean that they are more socially and culturally competent when it comes to making decisions - because political decisions, when they are not taken by experts (which is the situation we have at hand), have a lot to do with the decisionmaker's personal experience (or common sense, if you want).
Irritating as it may be, emigrants do have some know-how that, say, my mother, being an intelligent person and businesswoman but one who has spent her entire life here, cannot even imagine.
This know-how (I'd rather call it experience) is valuable, or at least, no less valuable than the experience of anybody else.
It has a common trait, too (hence it can be a motive to form a party). Bulgarian emigrants, and especially those who are into party-forming, are usually residents of West-European countries, USA and Canada. They all have a rather similar image of society, in comparison with, say, somebody in the Middle East or Africa somewhere, or the Far East who are complete aliens. So their ideas cannot be possibly all that discrepant and scattered. They could, in theory, form a reasonably consistent unity, and probably even arrive to a common political program. A valid one, at that.

6:30 pm  

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