Domowina erects additional hurdle for the foundation board members
The election of the new Saxon members of the Board of Trustees of the Foundation for the Sorbian People by the umbrella organisation Domowina - Bund Lausitzer Sorben e.V., which is organised according to the law of associations, on 13 January 2023 ended in a scandal. Immediately before the election, the existing election regulations were changed in important parts in such a way that a 50% hurdle was introduced for the first time. This resulted in deputy seats on the Board of Trustees not being filled despite there being enough candidates. Those affected commented on this as follows:
„We participated in the election because we want to be involved in the central position of allocating funds for the benefit of the Sorbian/Wendish people. At the same time, despite our critical attitude towards the current political structure in the Sorbian/Wendish people, we have thus also made ourselves available as an act of lending a hand and supporting the Domowina, especially as too few candidates came forward during the first application period. We did this in faithfulness to the valid election regulations. This election has a high democratic standard, as the body to be elected deals with the use of large sums of public funds, i.e. a sovereign task.
We were dismayed to learn that at the beginning of the session, the Federal Executive Committee had created new hurdles by amending the electoral regulations and introducing minimum majority requirements at a crucial point. This was quite obviously because, due to the small number of candidates according to the valid election regulations, candidates would also be confirmed from whom uncomfortable and very critical questions would have to be feared.“
Měrćin Krawc adds:
„On top of that, the candidates were aggressively intimidated and lied to during the questioning1. For example, it was suggested to the candidates by the federal board member Bjarnat Cyž, without being contradicted, that the Sorbian/Wendish members of the foundation board would decide as a team on all matters concerning the content of institutional and project funding and that the donors would only be there to control compliance with the funding guidelines. This would completely contradict the foundation statutes and even his own recent statements in which he demanded this only for the future and the outgoing councillors criticised the previous "systematic error" of the elected Sorbian councillors not being able to assert themselves2.
According to Domowina managing director Judit Šołćina, moreover, the foundation administration would have agreed that three deputy posts would suffice (contrary to the clear statement of 4 deputies on the foundation's Facebook page3) and Domowina chairman Dawid Statnik claimed that one deputy could also represent several ordinary members (and thus would have several voting rights). Both of these things leave the Foundation's statutes and rules of procedure open to arbitrariness at will.
All this deeply undermines the credibility of the Domowina federal board and casts a shameful light on our people."
„The newly introduced 50% hurdle is a reaction to the reform efforts outside Domowina and shows two things: Firstly, a:e candidate is only elected for sure if the eligible voters - i.e. the members of the Federal Executive Committee - vote beforehand. This contradicts the idea of a secret ballot, which is provided for in the election rules. What would have happened if instead of 10 candidates there had been 30? In that case, with the 50% hurdle, it is possible that no one would have been elected. Secondly, this is intended to prevent unpopular outsiders, e.g. supporters of the Serbski Sejm, from entering the Foundation Council. Domowina thus seals itself off from critical opinions. The diversity of opinion on the Foundation Council is artificially narrowed.
Personally, I was particularly appalled by the toxic atmosphere created by the aggressive behaviour of Messrs Bělk, Cyž and Leipner during the questioning. I wish the other members of the Federal Executive Committee that they can change the culture of discussion in the sense of constructive cooperation.“
As was shown here once again, the private law of associations is completely unsuitable for the high demands of a people's representation, as is necessary for the sovereign tasks of the Foundation Council. The political structure of the Sorbian/Wendish people urgently needs a reform towards direct democratic principles of legitimation. A people that takes itself seriously as such must orientate itself towards the state standards for elected representatives of local authorities with free and direct elections if it wants to act politically on an equal footing with the state.
The problem is that the Domowina umbrella organisation appoints most of the Sorbian/Wendish foundation board members, and is at the same time one of the largest recipients of funds. Thus the conflicts of interest, biases and self-serving constellations criticised in many expert reports, as well as the lack of democratic inner-Sorbian controls, persist.
dr. Hagen Domaška, dr. Měrćin Krawc, Marlis Pjacec
1 8th (extraordinary) meeting of the Federal Board of Domowina, 13.01.2023: www.youtube.com/watch?v=fg0WJD3YWuo
2 Domowina press release, 28.11.2022: "Domowina Federal Board discusses structural change of the Foundation for the Sorbian People - more rights demanded for elected foundation board members“: https://www.domowina.de/pressebereich/blog/domowina-bundesvorstand-diskutiert-ueber-strukturwandel-der-stiftung-fuer-das-sorbische-volk-mehr-rechte-fuer-gewaehlte-stiftungsraete-gefordert-2076
3 Facebook post of the Foundation for the Sorbian People, 05.01.2023 introducing the candidates: www.facebook.com/zalozba