6.8.2 Processes for Appointing Politicians

There are good reasons why people ask others to represent them and why they delegate decision-making to politicians (6.5.1), so the processes for appointing the latter are important.  The selection of political candidates should be based purely on merit but are several problems in both democratic and authoritarian systems:

  • For example, the Washington Post reported on nepotism in an autocracy: A lost generation of young people of Tunisia discuss grievances that led to their revolution; it quoted an unemployed graduate: “job openings, he said bitterly, are filled by those connected to the regime”.
  • Politicians in an authoritariansystem are appointed without asking people what they want, even if they are selected on merit.  They might not serve the interests of the population, unless they understand that their stability of tenure depends upon them being sufficiently acceptable (
  • Election manifestos may not reflect the combination of policies that a voter would wish to see (
  • No electoral system can ensure that people’s choices are accurately reflected in the politicians chosen (
  • Money can influence elections in democracies, so the politicians who win are not necessarily working for the good of the electorate (6.4.5).

These problems can never be entirely solved, but they can be reduced by having oversight mechanisms such as an independent ombudsman to provide a channel for dealing with complaints.  There should also be ways of making politicians accountable – as described below (

The selection of leaders is also problematic, in both democracies and dictatorships (  There is a tendency for leaders to be appointed on the basis of charisma, rather than on the other qualities required to do a good job.  In all political systems it is advantageous to set term limits for leaders (, to lessen the dangers of personality politics ( and to reduce the risk of powerful figures trying to illegally buttress their support.


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