6.8.4  Political Negotiability

(This is an archived page, from Edition 2 of the Patterns of Power book.  The current versions is at https://www.patternsofpower.org/patterns/political/service/negotiability/).

As noted above, a pre-requisite of negotiable governance is that people have had the opportunity to raise issues (, and have been able to speak freely (  Then there has to be a process for changes to be implemented.  The people’s representatives, in the form of politicians or recognised group leaders (6.4.4), need to be able to negotiate meaningfully and to obtain the necessary authorisation for the changes to be made. 

For negotiation to be meaningful in the terminology of this book (2.4), it has to be inclusive, balanced and transparent.  Negotiation can only be inclusive if there are safeguards to protect the interests of minorities:

·     State law should not be allowed to conflict with religious law (

·     Consultative governance (6.5.3) can ensure that all relevant views are taken into account. 

·     Other mechanisms can also provide representation for ethnic groups in a pluralist society (

·     Agreed human rights (6.3.7) are a specific safeguard to ensure that no-one’s interests are completely overridden.

Even with procedural safeguards, though, co-operative behaviour is necessary to achieve inclusiveness.  It depends upon people respecting each other as equals, in contrast to an adversarial trial of strength.  A purely majoritarian approach, by a ‘show of hands’, sometimes fails to find the best solution – which may require the majority to adapt slightly in order to accommodate the serious concerns of a minority group.

To achieve a balanced negotiation, all the different points of view have to be weighed – including the views of the 'silent majority' of people who did not initially raise an issue, and the views of minorities who are not represented in the decision-making process.  Several factors can contribute to achieving balance:

·     The negotiations have to be conducted at the appropriate level of subsidiarity (6.6.2).

·     The impact of a decision can be weighted in relation to the number of people involved and the importance of the issue to them.

·     Consultation, with everyone affected by a decision, can be used to counterbalance the pressures put on politicians by people with specific interests (6.4.6).

·     Individual politicians who have received donations can be barred from sitting on decision-making committees related to the donor’s activities.  This would avoid a conflict of interests and reduce the impact of money on politics.

·     Independent assessments can be made of the future consequences of a decision, to deflect leaders from choosing short-term populism. 

It is not suggested here that the balancing process can be reduced to mathematical formulae; the main requirement is to ensure that the participants have been adequately represented.

Transparency ensures that the process of negotiation is seen to be meaningful.  Formal records of decision-making can be made available to the public: showing the data and calculations which were taken into account; listing who has been consulted and what they said; and showing the basis upon which the decision was reached.  The transparency then has to continue, as described in the next section (, to ensure that the promises made during the negotiation are kept.

© PatternsofPower.org, 2014