Political Parties and Interest Groups: Shaping Democratic Governance

Political party
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The founders intended for members of Congress to provide the link between citizens and government. James Madison explains in Federalist 10 that public views are refined and enhanced "by passing them through the medium of a chosen body of citizens, whose wisdom may best discern the true interest of their country In the modern United States, four types of groups, known as "linkage" institutions , play a vital role in connecting citizens to the government.

They are not officially a part of the government, but without them, a democracy would be very difficult to maintain. These groups in American politics include the following:. Political parties represent broad points of view — or ideologies — that present people with alternative approaches to how the government should be run. Each party seeks political power by electing people to office so that its positions and philosophy become public policy.

For example, both the Republican and Democratic candidates for President present competing plans for solving a wide array of public issues.

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People, then, link to their government by identifying themselves as "Democrats," "Republicans," or "Reform" party members, for example. Campaigns and elections involve citizens by reminding them of their ultimate power — the vote. Campaigns today are increasingly elaborate and long, costing millions of dollars, and attracting the public's attention in any way they can. For all the expense and glitz, the process of electing government officials provides citizens with vital information regarding issues and candidates' qualifications for office.

Interest groups organize people with common interests and attitudes to influence government to support their points of view.

Political parties and interest groups : shaping democratic governance

They generally represent only one issue or a closely related set of concerns. So, people can organize according to their profession, business, corporation, or hobby — yet another way to "link" to government. The media play an important role in connecting people to government. Most of us find out about candidates for office, public officials' activities, and the burning issues of the day through television, newspapers, radio, and the Internet.

The media's power to shape the American mind has often been criticized, but it also allows people to give feedback to the government. The United States is far too large a country to operate effectively as a direct democracy. Even with elected representatives in Washington and in state capitals, it is still difficult for modern Americans to participate in their government in meaningful ways. Democracy still works though, partly because linkage institutions make important connections that allow the government to hear what its people are saying.

Report broken link. American Government 1. What Is a Democracy? Democratic Values — Liberty, Equality, Justice 2. The Bill of Rights 3. What Factors Shape Political Attitudes? Voting: A Forgotten Privilege? The Internet in Politics 6. Those who have been laid off frequently blame the government. As well, many workers have not benefitted from the privatization program in spite of efforts to broaden public participation. The 15 firms sold thus far went to "well established businessmen and multinationals who could afford to bid for them The level of indignation had reached worrisome proportions and criticism against the government could be heard all over Lusaka and other major cities.

Account Options

This is aptly demonstrated in budget. Studies of group strategies, of the impact of group activities in elections, and of the impact of interest group electoral activities on policy making must take into account an increasing amount of activity that is not fully disclosed. He then focuses on methods used to study parties, particularly quantitative approaches that attend to these difficulties, addressing methodological issues within various domains as well as the question of party cleavage and realignment that bridges the domains. Color associations are useful when it is not desirable to make rigorous links to parties, particularly when coalitions and alliances are formed between political parties and other organizations, for example: " Purple " Red-Blue alliances, Red-green alliances , Blue-green alliances , Traffic light coalitions , Pan-green coalitions , and Pan-blue coalitions. Depending on the demographic spread of the party membership, party members form local or regional party committees in order to help candidates run for local or regional offices in government.

The MMD government has not been able to rehabilitate most roads, public buildings, and services. Though it does lack the foreign exchange, the corruption within the government makes most Zambians -to believe that "the government is just like the previous one. It cares for only the rich This feat, however, is not reflected in prices or in the real value of wages and salaries.

Though the MMD continues to reiterate its full commitment to governmental transparency and to structural adjustment, the problem of corruption within the government has continued to erode the government's credibility and create dangerous political divisions. This problem is so endemic that it has divided the party, led to the dismissal or resignation of ministers and some founding members of the MMD, forced the donor community to withhold foreign aid, and tainted the good intentions of the government. Scandals in the cabinet, inefficiency, contradictory pronouncements, and sycophancy a la Kaunda have come to dominate MMD politics in Zambia.

Ministers like Roger Chongwe Legal Affairs have used their positions to illegally acquire acres of land. The former vice-president, Levi Mwanawasa resigned in mid in the heat of accusations about abuse of office and power. Former foreign affairs minister, Vernon Mwaanga who had been arrested in at Frankfurt International Airport on drug trafficking charges continued to be accused of running a drug ring.

His son, Maliko was arrested recently after he was found with high grade cocaine worth 70, pounds sterling Sikota Wina, another founding member of the MMD, as well as Princess Nakatindi Wina had to resign from the government following several accusations of drug trafficking.

Political Science 1 Parties and Interest Groups Political Parties 1

The list of MMD ministers and prominent officials who are well known for abuse of office, drug trafficking, corruption, indiscipline, and incompetence is quite long. In spite of Chiluba's personal "born again" claims, Zambians see him as ineffective and unable to control his ministers, who obviously do not share his visions of a new Zambia These acts of corruption have opened up the MMD to very bitter and critical attacks from the opposition parties and the public; distracted the government from its goals of adjustment and openness; and constrained the ability of the government to call on Zambians to make sacrifices and accept the pains of adjustment.

As well, corruption has led to waste, bureaucratic inertia, the privatization of public positions, the development of unproductive patron-client networks within and outside the government, and the erosion of donor and lender support. Pervasive corruption has also promoted widespread skepticism, even among earlier supporters of the MMD about the MMD's ability to sustain democracy and the reform programs.

Democracy in Zambia has not reduced corruption, if anything, it has made the situation worse It will be recalled that the "original leadership of MMD was dominated by people from one part of the country: Lozis from Western Province Yet, regions and major ethnic groups see the Bembas as dominating the government and unduly diverting resources to the North East. Loud complaints of marginalization and discrimination are heard from the Southern province which had supported the MMD.

UNIP's twenty five seats in parliament came from the province. Ethnic and regional identities and loyalties have severely divided Zambian politicians and politics. Today, none of the political parties can strictly be regarded as national in character. As Elias Nyakutemba has rightly noted, "Flourishing regional politics are part of Chiluba's dilemma and he has still put forward no plan for regional autonomy despite the overwhelming recommendations of the Mwanakatwe constitutional review commission Conflicts between the state and religious interests are not necessarily new given the experiences with Leshina and Watchtower Chiluba's born again religious positions seems to have emboldened the Christians who now openly make disparaging remarks about other religions.

Not only are television programs dominated by religious programs from abroad, but even public functions are full of religious activities. Religious sycophancy" has become part of Zambian politics as most ministers or politicians, as well as contractors have become "bom again" Christians! The regions are at war within and between themselves. By refusing to take action against corrupt ministers and politicians, by appointing so many individuals with records of corruption into his cabinet, and by taking very malicious action against those who oppose him, many see Chiluba's born again credentials as questionable.

More importantly, this public perception erodes the credibility of the leader, the government, and the party. The high point of this is evidenced in the conflicts between the central MMD government and regional governors who simply refuse to toe party lines, take orders from the center, and reconcile differences with other levels of authority. In the Northern and Northwestern provinces, as well as in the Copperbelt, acts of insubordination, disrespect for party rules and decisions, and power struggles between MMD stalwarts have at various times played into the hands of the opposition and weakened the party.

Edited by L. Sandy Maisel, Jeffrey M. Berry, and George C. Edwards III

While these struggles and conflicts often showed that the MMD was yet to see itself as a political party rather than a movement , they have made it possible for alienated party members to transfer their support to the opposition. Over 34 opposition parties and movements have emerged to challenge the MMD. Many of these are led by former leading members, cabinet ministers, and even founding members of the MMD. They were promptly joined by thirteen other parliamentarians like Akashambwata Lewanika and his sister, Inonge Lewanika. Though none of the opposition parties has the clout and resources as well as international visibility of the MMD, their mere existence removes a cadre of leaders from the party.

Their criticisms erode the legitimacy of the party and its leader. They have succeeded in recent by-elections in humiliating the MMD, even in its northern stronghold. A major coalition of these opposition parties, increasing scandals within the government, and deteriorating socio-economic conditions could lead to major upsets and a drastic reconstruction of political alignments and realignments in Zambia during and after the elections. For what ever it is worth, this possibility has frightened the MMD and forced Chiluba to become more intolerant of opposition. Chiluba has reacted to Kaunda's growing influence with panic.

He has amended the constitution to redefine the qualifications for contesting for the presidency to include a requirement that both parents must be Zambians Clearly aimed at Kenneth Kaunda whose parents were Malawians, it has been received with a lot of opposition and unfavorable reaction from within and outside Zambia.

Kaunda fought for Zambia's independence and ruled the country for 27 years. To now amend the constitution on the eve of the elections and only after Kaunda announced his interest in the presidency, and in the light of UNIP victories in by-elections in Mbala, Mpulungu and Mkushi where MMD candidates were defeated, has been seem as nothing short of victimization. To further humiliate Kaunda, Chiluba threw open to public view Yugoslav-constructed security tunnels under the state house in Lusaka. Chiluba argued that the tunnels were used by Kaunda to torture political opponents, though he has so far "failed to prove that torture did take place As well, he is being accused of gross human rights abuses, authoritarianism, opportunism, tribalism, and lack of capacity to control his ministers.

In fact, within the MMD, Chiluba has shown extreme hostility and intolerance to those who contemplate, talk less, articulate the idea of opposing him as presidential candidate in In fact, Dean Mung'omba who announced such an intention in early because "Chiluba's government had failed to meet the needs of the poor" and had mismanaged the economic reform program while neglecting agriculture and the rural areas, was promptly relieved of his position first as deputy finance minister, and later as MMD deputy treasurer As well, such panicky measures simply buy sympathy for the opposition, and has been directly responsible for the increasing support which Kaunda is enjoying.

This perception is exactly what convinced certain elements within UNIP, led by Kaunda's son, Wezi Kaunda, to initiate the controversial "Zero Option" in as a strategy to oust the Chiluba government from power through extra-legal means This episode forced Chiluba to, through the MMD-dominated parliament, impose a state of emergency, arrest numerous UNIP leaders and activists, and charge them to court.

This did not go down well with the international community, and Zambians who had suffered under almost Kaunda's two-decade-plus state of emergency.

Political parties & interest groups: Shaping democratic governance

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But it did show the fragility of Zambian democracy and the declining popularity of the incumbent government Chiluba rode to power on the back of the Zambian labor movement which he had led until he was elected president in However, the failure of the MMD's reform program and the lack of improvement in the lives of non-bourgeois forces, have culminated in strikes, riots, and demonstrations by peasants, workers, and students. As Nyakutemba rightly notes, the main problems of Chiluba "remain poverty, high taxes, soaring unemployment and continually falling living standards.

There is also the failure of medical and educational care and corruption in the cabinet The ZCTU which he headed for almost two decades is openly opposed to his structural adjustment, especially his privatization program. Teachers have organized strikes against the government as have taxi drivers, local authority workers, and civil servants.

5. How Do Citizens Connect With Their Government?

Peasants are smuggling their products across the border to neighboring countries for better prices. Chiluba has relied on the security forces to put down peaceful demonstrations and some Zambians have been shot or killed by the police. To say the least, Chiluba has lost the support of his own constituency and moving the democratic project to the stage of consolidation is currently not on the agenda, it will take rather enormous efforts to sustain the liberal content and context of current initiatives in the country: "Chiluba will be hard put to convince voters that he can deliver the fruits of democracy in his second term of office, as he failed in the first Democracy has not reduced corruption and the abuse of office.

True, it has opened up the political landscape, but it has not wiped out human rights abuses, reduced primordial conflicts, promoted accountability, or reduced poverty in any way. In fact, in spite of pluralism, unemployment, poverty, crime, prostitution, violence, and general social decay have increased. As well, in spite of the initial enthusiasm about Zambian democracy and promises of foreign aid, these have not materialized and investors are not rushing to invest in the country especially as its socio-economic crisis continue to deepen.

The MMD is certainly a conservative political movement which is committed to orthodox adjustment programs. Yet, the failure of the same adjustment program had delegitimized the Kaunda government and culminated in its massive defeat in the election. How the MMD hopes to carry on with the policy, without guaranteed foreign support, diversification of its economy, better copper prices, and some appreciable degree of debt-relief is a challenge.

In several respects, it is much worse than the Kaunda government. This is largely because virtually all the leaders and initial ministers of the MMD were former Kaunda ministers who had been sacked for corruption, incompetence, and abuse of office.

The U.S. Political System

They had joined in setting up the MMD to challenge Kaunda not because they believed in democracy, but because they wanted to re-enter Zambian politics and have direct access to the state and its resources. The lack of democracy in the numerous opposition parties and their weak and confused programs and patterns of politics, reveals much about the caliber of the founders and ministers who had run the MMD.

What lessons do we draw from the Zambian experience therefore? In reality, those prerequisites are the goals for which people struggle and might as well be treated as the outcomes of democracy as Terry Lynn Karl has also argued Second, there is a need to be more nuanced about the nature, politics, composition, and goals of the prodemocracy movements and new political parties in Africa.

Many are more conservative than incumbent regimes. They are also dominated by disgraced, corrupt, opportunistic, and "emergency" or "born again democrats. Women as still marginalized, they remain urban-based, excessively personalize their politics, and seek legitimization of the political credentials from outside interests rather than from local communities and constituencies.

Such politicians and movements are likely to be obstacles to democratic consolidation. In Zambia, the likes of Vernon Mwaanga have done so much damage to the process of democratic consolidation, and have created serious doubts in the minds of the people about the sincerity of the prodemocracy movements, third wave political parties, and their leaders.

Third, in an economy in deep crisis like Zambia, even good intentions and donor support might not be enough to sustain democracy. It would require very drastic structural transformations for foreign aid to make any impact. Chiluba did not alter the structure and nature of public institutions.

Many of the symbols, institutions, and legacies of the previous regimes were retained. These have worked steadily to contain the enthusiasm for multiparty democracy, subverted reform programs, and provided platforms for the opposition to regroup to challenge the government. Fourth, the masses of the people have a very limited elasticity of pain.

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Just emerging from authoritarian repression and manipulation, and haven been fed on promises of a better future, they expect immediate results. It means that third wave parties and popular movements must do their research, articulate a viable platform, understand the terrain of politics, and tell the truth to the electorate. The excuse of the devastation precipitated by previous governments can only be used, at the maximum, for one year. When the people fail to see results, and when, as in the case of Zambia, they see increasing corruption and mismanagement, they transfer their loyalties to other constituencies and the opposition.

Fifth, continuing ethnic, regional, and religious divisions remain a challenge to democracy and development. So far, the new movements have focused on the failings of incumbent regimes in economic matters. There is need to map out a clear agenda for containing divisions along primordial lines as well as issues of gender equality, environmental protection, and human rights. The MMD does not have such a program.

Denying the existence of nepotism and ethnic manipulation does not resolve the problem.