No parties = no elites
Something approaching real democracy is result of non-partisan legislatures
There are three jurisdictions in North America in which political parties do not participate in elections or government, one in the U.S. and two in Canada.
The legislature of the State of Nebraska - which is unique among American states in that it is “unicameral” - is non-partisan. Primary non-partisan elections are held and the two top vote-getters then run-off against one another in the general election. There is, of course, no problem with establishing the executive since, as in all U.S. States, the governor is elected separately. This legislature has been functioning quite well for over one-hundred years without party involvement.
But it will be objected that our system is not the same. In our system, the executive is “embedded” in the legislature, and the principal minister - the real equivalent of the U.S. governor - is determined by the number of seats won by a political party. The leader of that party is, by custom or political convention, the prime minister.
However two Canadian jurisdictions have shown clearly that this does not have to be the case. The Northwest Territories, and Nunavut - carved out of the NWT - have non-partisan legislatures. People stand for election on the basis of what each person intends to accomplish on behalf of his or her constituents. (This is not necessarily strange. Those who run for municipal office in Canada present themselves in exactly the same way).
When the legislature meets, members put their names forward for the post of government leader. The person who garners the most votes becomes the government leader and, from among the other members, forms a cabinet.
The government is always effectively a minority one, since there is no party allegiance it can rely on among the backbenchers. Consequently, it has to work hard and effectively to get a consensus. And it is characteristic of these legislatures, like the first nations cultures from which many of the members come, that consensus is highly regarded, and it is expected that the government will foster consensus.
Thus, there is no “loyal opposition” in the sense of a government-in-waiting. The members at large might be considered an “opposition”, but given the emphasis on consensus, “opposition” is at best an almost empty formal term.
Consequently, there are no trained seals, clapping their flippers. And the potential for schoolyard behaviour, which characterizes our Parliament and houses of assembly - and which is based on the “team” concept of party - is significantly reduced.
Question Period can actually involve real questions, not speeches masquerading as questions. And since there is no “team”, there will be no cheerleaders braying.
This much is certain. The opposition, when it occurs, will be real, not part of a game designed to discredit a particular party in power so that it can be replaced by another party. No parties, so no party platforms to be adhered to. But even more important, where there are no parties, there are no party elites. The Iron Law of Oligarchy cannot hold.
And something approaching real democracy is the result.