As part of his continuing observations on the campaign for leader of the Liberal Party of Canada, the Pithlord has some misgivings about the selection process and “party democracy” more generally.
He notes that leadership election processes in which party members vote have a normative problem:
our choices for high office are limited to those chosen by self-selected partisans. Further, once selected, there is rarely a legitimized way of deposing the leader.
He suggests that the prime minister should be the “the person with the confidence of a majority of the House, not the person selected” by whatever procedures a political party may choose. The discussion continues in his comment thread.
The leadership selection processes used by parties in parliamentary systems is something I have thought about far less than I should have, so I hope readers will have some thoughts on the matter.
Note that none of the leadership selection processes that I know of in parliamentary parties is a “primary” election in the sense that we understand the term “primary” in the USA, where any voter is entitled to vote in such an election (with various provisions on when, if at all, in advance of the election a voter must declare a party affiliation). Additionally, primaries in most US states are administered by state electoral authorities and regulated by public law, whereas internal leadership elections elsewhere (including most parliamentary systems) are administered and regulated by the party itself.
Nonetheless, the more open a party is about who may vote in its own leadership selection, the more the process resembles a “primary.” One of the questions raised in the comment thread to the Pithlord’s remarks is whether moving towards public-law regulation of party elections is a good idea. In a parliamentary system–where the head of government is dependent upon the confidence of elected representatives–is a public process of choosing that leader over the heads of those representatives compatible with the logic upon which the system is based?