18 September 2011

The Problem of Incumbency

With six months left until Ridvan, it’s time to start thinking about the election of the Local Spiritual Assembly!

I’ve been thinking a lot about an issue with Baha’i elections. What is the role of incumbency? Generally speaking, Assemblies don't have natural turnover. Once someone is elected, it is extremely rare that they are removed in the normal voting process, instead they leave due to personal reasons, retirement, or moving to another community. If this is a problem, it should be given serious thought by Baha'is.

I feel the Writings are clear that it is a problem. It can cause stagnation. Shoghi Effendi quite explicitly says that having new members elected "would be nice" and provides "new blood" that "always adds to the energy of the group." In another place he says that he was “happy to see changes” in membership of an NSA, because, "change itself is good and brings a fresh outlook into the discussions of any assembly." Shoghi Effendi was “pleased to see that these changes involved more younger people being on the N.S.A.” Having the election annually, he says, allows "the quality of membership in Baha'i assemblies" to be "continually raised and improved."