Qualifications for parliamentary seats
In the party list system that many European democracies have, the way to enhance your career as a politician is to be popular within the party hierarchy. This leads to perverse incentives for political hopefuls. With elections coming up again in January in the Netherlands, the parties are busy deciding whom to put on their lists. Where you get placed decides whether you can get elected or not. One of the people moved to a low, unelectable position is the Labor politician Rehwinkel. I'd never heard of him before, but apparently he's been moved to somewhere between 30 and 35 on the list, meaning that the Labor party needs to get that many seats for him to return to parliament. That seems very unlikely.
So he's upset. In fact, he's so upset that he has resigned. He claims he's been given a low place on the list because he lives in the Randstad (the area of Amsterdam, The Hague, Rotterdam and Utrecht) and because the placement committee wants give preferential treatment to women and minorities. So his argument for a better place is to claim he's a member of a minority too (he's gay).
Apart from the inherent problems of the list system, shouldn't competence matter in this at all? And how far have you sunk as a party if the quota system has become so entrenched, that there's now a bidding war for "minority" status going on? He's not even trying to argue on the basis of merit. This kind of superficial tokenism is a reflection of intellectual enervation. Tokens and symbols matter more than actual merit, talent or accomplishment. Whistling in a vacuum. It's not only unhealthy, it's also not going to get you anywhere long-term.
Posted by qsi at November 12, 2002 08:16 PM
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