Is it even possible to have a strong and influential political leader within the confines of the current democratic system? I’m inclined to answer in the positive, on the condition that three major constraints can be overcome: avoiding personal political responsibility; concentrating executive power; and dependence on foreign capital
Following the presidential elections in Montenegro that saw Milo Đukanović lose to (unplanned) opponent Jakov Milatović and thus lose power after three decades, the political question of who’s next is spreading around the region.
Answering the question of what kind of leadership we actually need is much more important than answering a question that points to citizens having had their fill of the previous ruler. And Is it even possible to have a strong and influential political leader within the confines of the current democratic system?
I’m inclined to answer in the positive, on the condition that three major constraints can be overcome.
The first is represented by the long-present personalisation and mediatisation of politics set against the backdrop of the political mentality of the trait of searching for a leader and settling for political immaturity. It is simply unbelievable how willing we are to run away from our personal share of political responsibility. The consequence is that, the more powerless we are, the more the power over us becomes increasingly unlimited.
Second is the necessity to avoid the capturing of all the key resources of power that are carried by a strong position of the executive. That also enables not so charismatic personalities, who in truth have a strong political will to be so, to “build up” their charisma.
Third, it is essential for the state to possess some sort of autonomous resources of power relative to corporate capital and other “veto players”, which includes the power to redistribute and intervene. It is otherwise justified to talk about background actors dressed in royal garb.
With validation beyond the confines of traditional politics, in the areas of knowledge, business and social movements, and even culture and sports, one can attain a position of power, but one cannot endure in such a position without relying on political infrastructure
It is only then that we can raise the question of whether they can be democratic, participative and transformational leaders, as opposed to populists and stabilocrats? Can they be leaders who this time include enlightened, “upstanding” citizens in the project to create functional democratic and responsible institutions?
Having been cheated and disappointed multiple times, such citizens are now ready to place their trust in a strong leader who displays high integrity and professional competence, but also who they believe speaks the truth, fulfils their promises and shares values of democracy and social justice.
However, the capacity and power to interpret, convince and mobilise around a clearly envisaged and viable strategy for change also requires appropriate guarantees and prior assertion, as well as a broad support base and developed organisational infrastructure.
For example, Milatović was backed by the initially non-parliamentary Europe Now Movement, but also by his own experience of implementing popular economic and social reforms from the position of a government minister.
With validation beyond the confines of traditional politics, in the areas of knowledge, business and social movements, and even culture and sports, one can attain a position of power, but one cannot endure in such a position without relying on political infrastructure.