6.8.2 Processes for Appointing Politicians

The processes for appointing politicians are important because they take decisions on behalf of the people; they need to be competent.

There are good reasons why people ask others to represent them, and why they delegate decision-making to politicians.  The selection of political candidates should be based purely on merit, but there are several problems in both democratic and authoritarian systems:

●  Although they are chosen by the population in a democracy, there are limitations in how representative they can be (6.5.1).

●  The Washington Post reported on nepotism in an autocracy, for example: 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 authoritarian system 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 or party platforms may not reflect the combination of policies that a voter would wish to see (

●  No electoral system offers processes for appointing politicians who accurately reflect people’s choices (

●  Money can influence elections in democracies, so the politicians who win are not necessarily working for everyone’s benefit (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 (6.8.5).

The selection of leaders is even more important than selecting other politicians.  It is also problematic, in both democracies and authorisation political systems (6.3.4).  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 (

Even good leaders cannot continue indefinitely.  They become hubristic and they stop listening to others.  It is advantageous to set term limits for leaders in all political systems (


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This page is intended to form part of Edition 4 of the Patterns of Power series of books.  An archived copy of it is held at https://www.patternsofpower.org/edition04/682b.htm.