FA is unique among Wikipedia processes in that there is a czar, a dictator.
The FA director, Raul654—or one of his delegates, SandyGeorgia, Karanacs, and Laser brain—determines the timing of the process for each nomination. For a nomination to be promoted to FA status, consensus must be reached that it meets the criteria. Consensus is built among reviewers and nominators; the director or his delegate determines whether there is consensus. A nomination will be removed from the list and archived if, in the judgment of the director or his delegate: [blah, blah, Da Rulez]
What if there was a Neutral Article tag?
Having a czar allows for efficient process, which is always the justification for fascism. Even many so-called democratic societies buy this; the U.S. political system, for example, created an King, elected by a complex process, term-limited, but given quasi-regal powers. (It also set up a system of balance of powers, which can break down when one faction gets control of two or three of the institutions, but my point is simply that institutionalized and persistent authority intrinsically creates deviations from democracy. I'm not arguing that some degree of deviation isn't necessary.)
The Raul system intrinsically and explicitly sets up Raul654 as the ultimate authority. Those who have tangled with him would know that this is a mess, even if he does a decent job as "FA director." At the time he set this up, he had high reputation. He was later troutslapped for abuse of authority, in other areas, and quietly backed down.
How is it that the sole control by an individual over an aspect of Wikipedia content is allowed? Jimbo, on Wikipedia, has theoretical authority, but never, for example, set up "delegates," which allows the consolidation of power through extending it. Jimbo has the authority to name whomever he pleases to ArbComm, but he hasn't exercised that authority, apparently realizing the risk involved, instead following election results. He could act to fix the entire Wikipedia system by shifting to a different election method!
(Simple: use a good form of proportional representation to make ArbComm truly a representative body, allow arbitrators all investigative tools but prohibit them from using the tools of intervention -- which is the position that the rest of the WMF wikis settled on to deal with the Founder flag. -- "independence of the judiciary" -- The form that would work on Wikipedia would be Asset Voting, invented by Lewis Carroll in about 1883 to deal with certain problems with Single Transferable Vote. Asset creates true proportional representation without using political parties. It is really a form of delegable proxy, election by choice or by delegated choice. Asset could be used with standing proxy assignment files, so election could actually be continuous, and it's even possible to end up with a representative assembly that allows direct *voting* by anyone. -- but not direct comment, and a full-blown functioning system allowing direct voting would need to use tools that are easily available elsewhere but not on Wikipedia, per se. That could be fixed.)
(Single Transferable Vote works when there are political parties involved; for it requires voters to know more than their favorite candidate. Carroll realized that this was a severe limitation that damaged the representative character of a parliament. Asset is really STV, only with, if a voter does not specify a preference order but only a favorite, the candidate receiving the vote can then use that vote to create a seat by amalgamating it with votes from other candidates, in cooperation, to reach a quota.)
FA could, in fact, be run this way. Want to be part of the FA committee? Register as such, and then name a "delegate." In other words, do what Raul did! If your delegate is ignored or the position deprecated, why, then, you are informed -- by your "delegate," -- and directly participate! Otherwise it's "set and forget."
In theory, this could allow a relatively small committee to function efficiently, as representing a far larger body of users, with open membership. That committee could, if necessary, set up an off-wiki process, but, to be a part of Wikipedia process, that should be transparent and open for reading. Participation ("right to edit") can be set up to be only by members who meet qualifications for such, such as some minimum level of support, as shown by proxy assignments, direct or indirect.
It would all be transparent; part of making this difficult to corrupt would be that all proxy assignments would be open. Contrary to what some knee-jerk think, this is not Field Day for Puppet Masters! Calling attention to the connection is the opposite of what any puppet master wants to do!
And, remember, in the end, all an off-wiki process would do is to make recommendations. In theory, that's all that Raul654 does. He's only got special power because of a set of administrators and editors who will follow the recommendations.
What if another group of editors were to set up an Alternate Featured Article process? Going even further, how about Weird Article of the Day?
How about Wikipedia Review's Daily Pick? (warning! content may not meet all Wikipedia standards, and, in fact, probably does not, that might even be the point.) I'm serious. There could be Category:Wikipedia Review Pick of the Day for Worst Article. It would not be dependent on on-wiki process, but would be a category objectively applied based on what WR actually chooses by its own "official" process, whatever that was.
This would actually improve the encyclopedia, bringing wider attention to problems, so response to it would test the ability of editors to understand and follow WP:IAR.