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Political Parties In Africa’s Democratisation Process

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L. Maseko

Below is the text of a paper presented by Hon. L. Maseko, Speaker of the Gauteng Provincial Legislature, South Africa, at the 40th CPA Africa Region Conference, Port Harcourt, Rivers State, Nigeria.

African political parties emerged under colonial rule, which was neither democratic nor legitimate. It was a system where political parties operated outside the electoral and parliamentary cycle. During this period, political parties existed mainly because of the quest for independence and self-rule. When the Aft-icon countries obtained their independence from the imperialists, politics began to change and, accordingly, political parties changed in their nature and management. Another factor that influenced the emergence of African political parties relates to the influence of Western political institutions. Having noted that the quest for independence was inevitable, this opened up on opportunity for western political parties to introduce Africans to Western political institutions. It is also observed that in the urge to leave behind political institutions similar to their own institutions the departing colonial government decided to export to Africa their peculiar version of parliamentary government.

In post-independence political development, the evolution of political parties also took the form of establishing political parties based on ethnic lines.

2. Role Played by Political Parties in Democratization

A number of African liberation movements declared themselves political parties on the eve of independence from colonial rule. These political parties occupy a special place in the sentiments of the people with whom they struggled for liberation. African political parties, especially those that were liberation movements, were the main mechanisms and also participants in the transition from colonial rule to majority rule. Political parties play an important role in the market place of political ideas and opinions from different ideological perspectives, which is important in the founding and consolidation of democratic systems of governance. Political parties play a very important role in setting up institutional frameworks and the competitive environment that makes this struggle for power more human and accessible to all.

To this end, they contributed in one of the following ways:

· Political parties have managed to endow regimes with legitimacy.

· They aggregate diverse demands into coherent political pro-grammes.

· They became the principal actors in the electoral system.

· They are the vehicles for the recruitment of credible political leadership.

· Parties are the avenues for participation in the political process.

· They provide ideologies that represent social, economic and political interests.

· In some countries on the continent, some political parties have been active not only in political mobilization but also in mobilization of activities for conflict management.

· They provide political stability in societies able to absorb increasing levels of political participation by the new social forces generated by modernization.

3. Political Parties in Governance

The promotion and building of democracy and good governance has been a key element in strategies of majority rule focusing on highlighting the brood-ranging obligations of governments to their constituencies.

The democratic dispensation has also ushered in new debates by political parties on how best to design and ensure that constitutions facilitate democratic governance, protect human rights and other rights that characterize Africa’s complex post-colonial societies. The constitution in the post-democratic era has also been used as a tool to engineer political succession.

4. Review of the Existing African Political Systems

Political parties compete with each other for the public vote and, because they should adhere to the rules of the electoral game, they enter into complex relations with their internal and external environment and with other political parties. In general, there are four types of political systems in operation on the African Continent. These include:

· One-party system.

· Two-party system.

· Dominant-party system.

Multiparty systems.

4.1. One Party state System

This system distinguishes between political systems in which a single party enjoys the monopoly of power to the exclusion of all other parties by political or constitutional means and those that are characterized by a competitive struggle between a number of parties.

One party systems were associated with anti-colonial nationalism and state consolidation in the developing world.

4.2 Two Party State System

A two-party system is duopolistic in that two major parties that have a roughly equal prospect of winning government power dominate it. In its classical form, a two-party system can be identified by three criteria, as explained below: Although a number of ‘minor’ parties may exist, only two parties enjoy sufficient electoral and legislative strength to have a realistic prospect of winning government power. The larger party is able to rule alone, usually on the basis of a legislative majority and the other provides the opposition. Power alternates between these parties, both are electable, with the opposition serving as a government in the wings.

A number of observations have been made about the two state party system on the African continent, namely:

· That the system is not immune to engendering severe conflicts, leading to state collapse, particularly in situations where the ethnic advantage of one political party over the other may lead to the opposition becoming impatient and resorting to the military as a way of advancing civilian politics.

· That the system does not always translate into high chances of developing into a multi-party system or a dominant-party system.

4.3 Dominant Party System

The dominant-party system is different from the one-party system, although it may at times exhibit similar characteristics. A dominant-party system is competitive in the sense that a number of parties compete for power in regular and popular elections, but is dominated by a single major party that consequently enjoys prolonged periods in power. One of the observations that can be made regarding the dominant party system, is that:

· Dominant parties in their nature can monopolize the low making process to promote the predominant party’s economic and social interests.

4.4 Multi Party System

Multi-party democracy is assuming increasing currency in the South as well as the North. The wisdom of multi-party democracy has been the subject of debate in a number of fora. As yet there is no absolute consensus on the merits or demerits of the system.

Multipartism is characterized by competition between more than two parties, thus reducing the chances of single-party government and increasing the likelihood of coalitions.

There are a variety of permutations under the multi-party system .

The multi-party system is predominant in many African countries, including Nigeria, Zambia, Tanzania, Malawi and South Africa. The South African case study illustrates this point. It is a multi-party system based on proportional representation in which elections are held every 5 years.

In the run-up to the April 2009 elections, there were 117 registered political parties of which 27 parties contested for the 2009 April general elections. Out of a population of 47 million, 23 million were registered voters. There was a 78 per cent voter turnout. 14 parties won seats in the Notional Assembly.

Although this reflects political interest in the democratization of the state and society, there is no guarantee that South Africa is now a matured democracy. It does not follow that the more parties you have in the political competition, the more civil participation you will have.

It is worth noting that up until 2006, Uganda did not have a multi-party system of democracy instead, during elections, they had their members of parliament standing as independent candidates and directly elected by their constituencies. From a non-party political system to a situation of over 30 registered political parties is indicative of an established trend towards a multi-party democracy on the continent.

One of the main functions of political parties is to maintain themselves as organizations capable of contesting elections, maintaining their membership and supporting their MPs. This is to ensure that, when they become the governing party, their political programmes and election promises are acted upon and implemented.

Parties are also involved in maintaining contact with an increasing number of party to party, regional and global networks, and working with special interest groups, such as young people, women, trade unions and civil society organisations.

Political parties operate within the context of external regulations and on environment that either enhances or inhibits their effectiveness. The Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance has identified a number of factors in the external regulatory environment that affect parties. These include registration and de-registration of parties, election lows and/or party low, the prevailing electoral system, the parliamentary system and party funding.

The parliamentary system is another external factor influencing the way parties operate. Another external factor for party operations relates to funding of political activities. In order to perform their tasks, political parties need to source funding. However, the reality is that most countries lock financial resources, which prevents certain groups and leaders from political participation through representation.

Management of the internal affairs of parties is on important yardstick for measuring the extent to which intra-party democracy is deepened. The management of political parties involves the day to day running of party affairs, building of notional, provincial, district, community and village branches of parties. This involves the development of manifestos and programmes, as well as the organization of regular party meetings and conferences. In terms of their internal processes, political parties are required to have a constitution.

6. Funding of Political Parties

Political parties ought to be institutions of democracy. A democratic state stands to benefit from strong and vibrant political parties. Their existence and effectiveness is the responsibility of the state and should be funded by the fiscus. Such funds may be utilized to inter alia:

· Promote national unity and notional symbols,

· Promote the Constitution

· Promote civic education

· Strengthen party administration, research and policy development

In other parliaments, parties represented in parliament receive funding from the National Revenue Fund which is appropriated to on independent institution, such as the Independent Electoral Commission for the management and distribution thereof.

There al-e currently identifiable models for political party funding applied by different countries of Africa such as appropriation of budgets to the legislature for distribution, party subscriptions fees by rank and file of the party, donor funding and private contributions through fund raising strategies. All the funds raised get accounted for in accordance with existing regulations both in the parliamentary processes and party financial management systems and policies. How parties are financed has great impact on the functionality and ideological independence emanating from external forces with ulterior motives.

Let me add that, non-governmental organizations, such as the Institute for Security Studies (15S) and the Institute for Democracy in South Africa (IDASA), have proposed that Parliament introduces regulations to disclose the private funding of political parties. Discussions are still taking place in this regard.

7. Current Challenges Faced by Different Political Parties

Internal party democracy in relation to leadership and candidate selection seems to pose a challenge. Ethnic and regional influence and patronage all affect the internal party democracy as political parties become democratic institutions and instruments for the recruitment of democratic leaders. Internal party democracy in terms of candidate selection and leadership contestation seems to pose a serious challenge, as some tend to refuse to relinquish power.

The problem of transparency and accountability is still for from being achieved it the current epoch as political parties al-e not regulated to disclose their sources of funding. Most of these challenges mortally attract political parties to corruption tendencies and exacerbate the culture of patronage towards other individuals.

Leadership succession and crisis in politics seems to be the major setback confronting African political parties due to a lack of party constitutional provisions that restrict their office to a specific number of terms.

The issue of women representation and political party leadership is still a serious problem to African political parties. In on effort to respond to a call of women empowerment most of the political parties still do not hove any constitutional provisions that force them to determine women representation.

As a way of trying to redefine the role of political parties in the current epoch, most of the energies need to be channeled towards the followings areas:

· There should be continuous debate on how African political parties function in order to gain full understanding of their governability and the extent to which their operations conform to democratic governance ethos.

. Political parties need to constitutionalise the issues of the regulation of their funding, as this is consistent with transparency and accountability.

· Political parties need to respond to the call for women empowerment by providing constitutional provisions.

· African political parties need to consider mechanisms for succession planning in leadership.

African political parties need to hold all public regard to the feasibility of their representatives accountable with implementation of policies and the manifestos.

Political parties are key to good governance and nurturing of democracy. It should be acknowledged that some countries on the Continent are striving towards the achievement of good governance and the consolidation of democracy. However, the development of a truly democratic culture has not taken root in other countries. Democracy at the macro level still remains work in progress requiring refinement and reforms along the way. Similarly, t’

intra-party democracy will remain work in progress as parties continually build their institutional structures and their operational effectiveness.

Prof. Maurice Iwu, INEC boss

Prof. Maurice Iwu, INEC boss

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CVR: Traditional Ruler Tasks INEC On Mass Mobilisation

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A traditional ruler in Elele community, in Ikwerre Local Government Area of Rivers State, Chief  Mike Elechi, has called on the indigenes of the community and the state to participate in the Continuous Voter’s Registration (CVR) to enable them choose who will govern them in the next general elections.
Sir Elechi also used the opportunity to call on the Independent National Electoral Commission  to organise stakeholders meeting in his community, saying that such  interactive session would shed more light on the importance of the electoral process. 
Elechi stated this in an interview with journalists in his home town over the weekend, saying that the call became imperative following the hardship faced by the citizens as result of bad leadership in the country 
The former Permanent Secretary said although he was yet to see the commencement of the exercise in the area, he, stated the need to organise stakeholders meeting by the electoral empire which would achieve the desired objectives.
According to him, INEC has by this exercise provided an opportunity for full participation of those above 18 years who were not registered during the last exercise 
The Chief Executive Officer of Vintage Farms, said INEC had provided yet another platform for eligible voters to register and vote out bad government led by the federal government. 
“As I urge INEC to carry out adequate sensitization ,it behoves those above 18 years to register and vote and as well be voted for. 
“Get your voters card to enable you throw bad governance into the dustbin. 
“It will also help us get out where we are now.” 
Elechi pointed out that his community has a large number of voters in Ikwerre Local Government area, stressing that concerted efforts should be made to ensure that the exercise was in the area .

By: Akujobi Amadi

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Diri Cautions Appointees Over Early Politicking

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Bayelsa State Governor, Senator Douye Diri, has cautioned his appointees against early politicking ahead of the 2023 elections, saying he would not hesitate to sack any of them found wanting.
Speaking before commencement of the weekly state Executive Council meeting in Government House  Governor Diri frowned on the activities of some of his appointees, which he said were hitting up the polity ahead of the 2023 elections, stressing that it was too early for open politicking. 
A statement by the Governor’s Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Daniel Alabrah, quoted him as saying despite people having the right to aspire to any political office, the time was not ripe for politicking. 
Diri reminded his appointees that the administration lost considerable time last year due to COVID-19 and needless litigations, stressing that it was in a hurry to deliver on its campaign promises and would not afford to waste time politicking. 
He wondered why appointees would be involved in open politicking when the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had not even released a timetable for elections.
The state helmsman urged members of his cabinet interested in open politicking at this time, especially those from Bayelsa West Senatorial District, to resign or be ready to be sacked.
He called on all those involved in the early politicking to immediately withdraw and follow the directives of his administration, saying his government was not ready for politics at this time. 
“I find it very difficult to believe that appointees in this government have already started open politicking.
“Yes, it is the constitutional right of anybody to contest but even the Bible tells us that there is time for everything. At this time, we are trying to stamp our feet to meet up our campaign promises to our people.”
“I hereby caution all those involved to immediately withdraw. If you are prepared to continue with this government, you must listen to the music of this administration. We are not prepared to start politicking from this year”, he said.
Meanwhile, Governor Diri has also sworn in two new Special Advisers.
They are, Alabo Ozubide, Special Adviser, Legal Matters, and Onuma Johnson, Special Adviser on Non-Indigenes. 
While congratulating them, he said their appointments were based on merit and in line with his campaign promises, charging them to avoid friction with commissioners,just as he reiterated that their cooperation with commissioners would deliver development to the people of the state. 
“We promised that when elected, we would appoint a Special Adviser from among non-ndigenes. This appointment is in fulfilment of that promise. We believe that you will be able to synergise and gather non-indigenes together.
“Often, we see role conflicts between special advisers and commissioners that duty bound to implement government policies. You as special advisers should cooperate with them,” he said.

By: Ariwera Ibibo-Howells, Yenagoa

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PDP Urges Nigerians To Embrace E-Registration Of Members

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The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has urged Nigerians to embrace in its online membership registration scheduled to begin in August.
The PDP National Publicity Secretary, Mr Kola Ologbondiyan made the appeal during a news conference on Wednesday in Abuja.
Ologbondiyan urged Nigerians to visit www.iampdp.com for the online registration at the comfort of their homes.
He also expressed delight over  requests from Nigerians  and the interests they were already showing  for the online registration.
Ologbondiyan urged Nigerians to come to PDP and own the process.
The PDP spokesman also commended Nigerians on the way they embraced the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) online ongoing Continuous Voter Registration (CVR).
He said “PDP is happy to hear the INEC saying no fewer than one million Nigerians have completed their online pre-registration.”
Ologbondiyan said  the way Nigerians embraced the CVR showed they were dissatisfied with governance in the country and ready for 2023.
He urged Nigerians of voting age and those yet to register for Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs) to continue with the CVR.
He said “We appeal to those who are educated, especially members of the PDP to encourage others to participate in the ongoing CVR.”
Ologbondiyan also urged Nigerians to register to enable them to vote, pointing out that people should know it is  their rights to vote.
Asked how PDP would conduct its e-registration with the Nigeria Communications Commission (NCC) recent comment on Nigeria network covered, Ologbondiyan said as far as PDP was concerned, every  part of Nigeria had network coverage.
“From the information we have received from all our members across the 36 states and across the 774 local governments area of the country, there is no where that we have received a report that they cannot carry out online registration.
“Even INEC has come out to say that they have no problems with online registration.
“We are happy that INEC has come out to reveal that not less than one million Nigerians have so far participated in the Continuous Voters’ Registration exercise of the commission,” he said.
On  inquiry over the role of the National Assembly members on  electronic transmission of election results, he said the party would meet its members in the National Assembly to review their participation.
He said “The PDP is calling a meeting between the party and caucus in the National Assembly to review the participation of members in the legislative activity of the National Assembly as it concerns the voting on transmission of results.”

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