2. Political Parties and Government


Before reading this chapter review" Who are the stakeholders?" in Policy 3

Political parties play a central role in modern democracies. They are voluntary but organised political forces, based on certain similarities in terms of the interests and values of people. These parties try to gain state power through competitive parliamentary elections and use this power to promote their goals. They usually have general and specific goals written into their programmes, which are based on and demonstrative of their own ideologies. This ideology can be seen as a system of values and goals (Paloheimo and Wiberg 1996, Krott 2005).

Political parties represent organised and traditional forms of political forces. Political forces also include pressure groups (most of the stakeholder groups A – D can also be called pressure groups) and media as well as so called new social movements, which differ from the parties as they exist without fixed and permanent organisations. (Paloheimo and Wiberg 1996). Recently, these informal citizen movements have gained in importance in political processes.

The role of political parties in policy making is very important, and in particular when they are represented in the government. Other stakeholders try to advance their interests both through these political parties and by direct contact with the members of parliament, the government and state administration. Parliament, government and president(s) in conventional parliamentary structures represent the state authority by a mandate given by the citizens in electorial procedures.

State authority is divided into three parts:

1) a legislative power carried out by the parliament;

2) executive power performed by the government (sometimes shared by the president) and;

3) judiciary power given to independent courts of law.

The government is the most important institution shaping state policies. This also holds true for forest policies, although larger questions (i.e., about annual budgets) for forestry are usually brought to government. Forest legislation is considered and finally decided on in the parliament, although the specific ministry in charge of forest policy usually leads with the preparation of draft legislation.

State administration (forest administration included) has a dual role. On the one hand it represents a neutral authority working under the political guidance of any kind of government coalition. In this sense it can not be considered as a stakeholder. These bureaucratic institutions (i.e., state administration) also have their own goals and this can be regarded as an attempt to increase their importance and power. In this sense, they can be seen as having a ‘kind of’ stakeholder role in forest policy.

Where does the legitimisation of stakeholders come from?

In some cases it is very clear. Private forest owners usually have constitutional rights to use their private properties and the state (also) constitutionally promises to protect these property rights.

With respect to the forest industry, the major legitimisation comes from national economic interests that promote forest industries and thus maintain employment and demand for wood. Forestry and forest industry workers also have a very understandable interest to protect their jobs (this concerns salaried employees - technicians and foresters).

The legitimization of environmental and other specific interest groups come from their members and sometimes from the majority of society (people). The general population with their diverse interests also needs to be taken into account within forest policy. Sometimes the general population is represented by political parties, and occasionally by informal citizen groups. It is important to remember that often the public financing of forestry (if any) comes from the purse of ordinary taxpayers.

The European Confederation of woodworking industries

An example of a stakeholder at the European level is CEI-Bois. It was founded in 1952 and it represents the interests of the European woodworking industry that include over 100,000 companies employing around 2.7million workers in the EU25.

The primary goal of CEI-Bois is to further the interests of the European wood sector and it aims to influence EU policy-making. It is the main body representing and defending the interests of the European woodworking industries in the European Union.

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