Research was undertaken by Commission members into the structure and organisation of other Green Parties. This included Australia (particularly Victoria), Austria and Vienna, Belgium (both Groen and Ecolo), Finland, France, Germany, Norway and Sweden.
Here is a summary of what we learnt and what we can take into account when considering ideas for our Green Party of England and Wales.
That decision making should be at the most local level possible, is the basis of all the green parties. Local parties have their own constitutions, which they are free to develop. There is a risk that a high level of local autonomy can lead to a lack of cohesion – an example of this was seen in France. Membership is either held at national, regional or local level; which affects how the membership dues are collected and distributed.
Local and regional parties are based on electoral boundaries in all the green parties, apart from France. However, it is noted that these countries do have a strong federal structure anyway. Local parties often have a minimum membership level to be recognised as such – normally 3-5. National decision making bodies consider geographic representation to be important.
Decision making is often made by majority votes, with different majorities required based on the type of decision-making needed. The Australian Greens, however, require consensus decision-making on everything.
Conference is the highest decision making body in all the parties. All of them, apart from the two Belgium parties, have delegate conference voters, though the Finland Green Party allows non-delegates to attend but not vote. This is because of the size of the parties and also a recognised risk that conference can be exclusive due to cost and this may skew the decisions made. It was also noted by many of the parties that certain decisions are put to the entire membership in a postal referendum.
Decision making bodies in the other parties vary from 2-8 different bodies with different roles and representation. Membership of these bodies varies from 2-300 members. Representation from publicly elected representatives and delegates from local or regional parties quite often features. In Sweden, there is a body with no constitutional power which is made up of local party chairs that are consulted on big decisions on an advisory basis.
In all the parties, there are co-leaders (with mandated gender diversity) and in some there are also deputy leader(s). The leadership are elected by conference in all cases. Some parties exclude MPs from being on the leadership team, though this experience is often not seen positively.
Terms of office
Terms of office vary from 1-5 years and most specify a term limit. This varies from no more than 2 consecutive terms to no more than 9 years. There is often a clause which means terms of office can be extended if there are clashes with elections.
Most parties have thematic spokespeople who are appointed in different ways and working groups that support them. In Germany and Austria, these are the parliamentarians of the shadow cabinet and the working groups work to support the shadow cabinet in terms of policy development based on issues regarding the specific theme. The overall policy document produced in other green parties are fairly succinct and infrequently revised by a democratic process. Content for manifestos come from the policy document.
Selection of candidates for public office
Candidate selection does not always happen at the local level but instead is dependent on how the nation’s electoral system works. Norway has a national candidate selection panel which reviews potential candidates before they are selected by regional parties.
Inclusion – equality and diversity
All the green parties have a commitment to inclusion but approach it in different ways. Some interesting examples include:
- mandatory 50% women on committees in Germany and Austria
- in Germany a small number of women can request that a decision requires a preliminary ‘women’s vote’ at conference which can reject a proposal or accept it and then it goes to a vote of the entire conference
- Austria has an established group, treated as an additional region in the structures, with its own structures and decision making for ethnic minorities, this allows greater representation at all levels of the party and they get priority when it comes to selection in elections
- Austria also have groups for LGBT+, Women, Young Greens, Green Students, Green Farmers and Green Business but these are only involved in consultations rather than having a separate voting rights
Most of the parties include the Young Greens in their constitutions and are required to have representation on all key decision making bodies. Green Students are also quite frequently mentioned. Green Seniors is also mentioned in one constitution. Other groups based on personal characteristics are often not bound by the constitution.
Several parties refer to dispute resolution committees as peace committees, peace courts or arbitration courts to create a more ‘positive’ approach. In some parties there is a reluctance to exclude which can lead to internal conflicts which cannot be resolved.
Most of the parties have less concern about finance due to a significant amount of public funding due to MPs and votes. Membership fees are a much smaller proportion of their income and it is often collected at local or regional level and brought up to national level based on need decided by a decision making body.
The full report
This is the full report by Martina Weitsch which some members have asked for. There’s a lot more detail here about how other green parties organise, and how this raises questions for the Holistic Review of our green party. Looking forward to your comments and thoughts.