urse: Political Parties & Pressure Groups in Pakistan (545) Semester: Spring, 2021
Level: M. Sc
Assignment No. 1
Q.No.1: Discuss the role of political parties in development. In your views which type of party is more like to boost the pace of development?
Ans: Protest and Mass Mobilization as an Alternative to Political Parties
A growing portion of the global electorate, hostile to political parties and unable or unwilling to engage with the political system, has increasingly taken to the streets to express its grievances. The work of Erica Chenoweth and Maria Stephan has shown that the 2010s are on track to experience more episodes of nonviolent mass mobilization—movements of at least 1,000 over the course of at least a week—than any decade since World War II. However, without a mass organization to channel discontent and press for political change at the most politically opportune time, these mass movements have also succeeded at the lowest rates since the 1960s—a 30 percent success rate between 2010 and 2015 that was much lower than the 40 to 50 percent success rates of the 1960s, 70s, and 80s.
Looking at smaller-scale protests—any event in which 50 people or more demonstrated against the government—since 1990, we can see an increase in democracies and electoral authoritarian regimes in every region of the world. These increases are in not just in the newest democracies of Sub-Saharan Africa, Southeast Asia, and the Middle East and North Africa, but in countries with longer histories of democracy in Southern Europe, in Brazil, and in South Asia.
In Europe, the Southern European countries of Portugal, Spain, and Greece experienced a significant increase in protests from 2008-2012. It was there that governments, with their policy options severely restricted by EU membership and Eurozone policies, implemented a series of deeply unpopular austerity measures in countries still reeling from the effects of the Great Recession and mired in unemployment. Protests in Brazil also increased sharply after 2012 in response to unpopular austerity measures and a perceived lack of government responsiveness in general, such as cuts to public transportation subsidies while funding massive Olympic infrastructure projects, in addition to the widespread corruption uncovered in the “Operation Carwash” investigation.
In democracies in South Asia and the Middle East and North Africa, demonstrators protested against a similar lack of responsiveness due to lower state capacity, a condition often exacerbated by collusion among parties to share the spoils of government at the expense of service delivery. In India and Sri Lanka, there were demonstrations against the state’s failure to address violence against women, foreign firms’ seizure of domestic land, and civil servants’ deteriorating working conditions. Protests rose sharply against poor delivery of electricity or sanitation services in Iraq and Lebanon.
Protests were also indicators of struggles over the nature of democracy, demonstrating countries’ lack of institutionalized political competition anchored by programmatic political parties. Protesters took to the street to force democratic change in Pakistan and Nepal; protests brought democratization to Indonesia in the wake of the Asia Financial Crisis and to Tunisia in the wake of the Arab Spring. Once democracy had been achieved in some of these countries, protesters took to the streets to defend it, in successful and unsuccessful attempts in Benin, Burundi, and Senegal to prevent presidents from seeking third terms. Protests also accompanied sharply polarized political competition that precipitated democratic breakdown, such as between personalistic leaders in Bangladesh and between opponents and supporters of Thailand’s populist Thaksin.
These protests and mass mobilization efforts have not replaced the need for political parties—in fact, they demonstrate the singular role political parties play in democratic representation and accountability. The recurrence and limited success of protests suggest a lesson similar to those of peasant uprisings that would regularly recur before the age of democratization: that, absent some institutionalized mechanism for popular accountability, governments can always renege on any concessions they might make once protests have passed.
Among Southern Europe’s anti-austerity protests, some members of Spain’s “Indignados” movement, frustrated by protests’ inability to effect policy change, assessed they would need to change their strategy and move into electoral politics. As a result, they formed the Podemos party while seeking to maintain the movement’s assembly-based participatory structure in an attempt to translate members’ preferences into policy.
Similarly, the India Against Corruption (IAC) protest movement transitioned from protest movement to political party. The movement, with the charismatic social activist Anna Hazare as its public face, emerged in 2011 after a year full of corruption scandals. IAC protests began when the national government failed to advance a bill to create a strong and independent ombudsman for corruption. Although a series of nationwide protests did lead to legislative passage of the bill by year end, one of IAC’s founders, Arvind Kejriwal, split with Hazare and went into electoral politics.[x] Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi (“Common Person”) Party (AAP) would enter the Delhi State legislature in 2013 as the second largest party and, taking many constituencies previously held by the incumbent Indian National Congress, AAP would go on to form a minority government.
The India Against Corruption movement also highlights the limitations of protest and mass mobilization in addressing the political parties’ failures of representation. Because protesters are estranged from a system that is unresponsive to their views and are hostile to political parties, many protest movements profess to be anti-political. However, India Against Corruption itself, while claiming to be above politics and division, was organized by and initially attracted middle class supporters.
It was the middle class that frequently experienced petty corruption in their daily interactions and transactions with the state, rather than the potentially grand corruption and rent-seeking that contributed to the inequality that shaped the lives of the poor. Although IAC and the AAP party would go on to attract broad support, particularly from marginalized groups like youth, Muslims, and “low caste” Dalits, their solution to corruption was a legalistic rather than political fix. In this way, IAC and AAP echoed the “there is no alternative” mantra of mainstream parties in other long-standing democracies that have converged on a technocratic approach to economic policy.
Labor Unions as an Alternative to Political Parties
Labor unions have historically served as a mass organization that can channel discontent into political change, particularly in authoritarian regimes in which few other mass member organizations exist. Labor unions played a key role in democratization in the third wave of democratization, instituting bottom-up change through inclusive deliberative structures. More recently, the Tunisian General Trade Union (UGTT) was key to the country’s democratization. The UGTT was one of the few independent organizations with a mass membership that existed under the Ben Ali regime, and the political savviness of UGTT leaders—between activist members and the government—helped make Tunisia the only Arab Spring country to emerge as a democracy.
In authoritarian regimes lacking political parties, labor unions have been incubators of democratic practices and democratization. Solidarity emerged as a part of a strategy of creating parallel civil society organizations within authoritarian Poland. After the authorities acceded to Solidarity’s key demand in its 1980 strike and legalized independent trade unions, Solidarity become an organization that practiced bottom-up, direct democracy in factories across Poland. In West Africa, trade unions played a key role in democratization, first aiding independence struggles by engaging in strikes that destabilized colonial regimes, and then working in the 1980s and 1990s with civil society groups to protest against the burdens imposed by authoritarian governments’ austerity policies.
Labor unions have historically played a role in the development of political parties, including much of the social democratic parties of Western Europe. For example, democratization in Sweden was the result of bottom-up pressure from organized labor, often working in conjunction with other civil society groups such as temperance movement societies and free churches for organizational skills and meeting places; by 1900, one-third of Swedes were members of unions, temperance societies, or free churches. And union members were essential to the creation of the Sweden Social Democrats, with unionist making up to 97 percent of party members by the end of the 19th Century.
In Brazil, workers in the burgeoning auto industry in the 1970s organized from the bottom up to defy the military-backed government’s control of trade unions and ban on strikes; unionists, with close connections to activists from the Catholic and Protestant Churches, human rights activists, and leftist intellectuals would form the Workers Party in 1980. Labor unions were also the backbone of opposition parties in Apartheid-era South Africa and post-independence Zimbabwe, forging a collective consciousness that allowed ordinary citizens to work collectively to better their standards of living, particularly when they worked with a broad array of civil society organizations.
Elites Practicing Forbearance:
Elite support for populist parties in Europe frequently combines some businessmen’s desire to advance their opportunities for personal profit, their desire to lower their tax burden, and Russian interests. In the UK, official and journalistic investigations suggest that Arron Banks, a British businessman and prominent financier of the populist UK Independence Party, may have served as a middle man for covert Russian funding of the Leave.EU campaign. Banks on the eve of the referendum also received several business offers from Moscow related to his diamond interests, and a former business partner has claimed Banks illegally smuggled diamonds out of Zimbabwe, with Russian involvement in the scheme.
The UK’s departure from the EU would also be mutually beneficial to business owners like Banks seeking to reduce their tax burden and to Russia in its attempts to expand its influence. Brexit would remove the UK from the EU’s mechanisms to cooperate on tax avoidance, and potentially create pressure on the UK to reduce its corporate tax rate to better compete with the low rates of neighboring Ireland. Brexit would also weaken Western multilateral organizations that Moscow believes are meant to contain Russia geopolitically.
Parties Can Increase Demand through Greater Deliberation
On the demand side, parties face enduring challenges attracting voters because of changes to the nature of the electorate resulting from deindustrialization, globalization, and rising postmaterialism. Increasing individualism among a largely middle-class electorate in many Western European countries has created a large share of “apartisan” voters who tend to be more reliant on their own individual judgment rather than party cues when determining how to cast their votes; apartisans are also increasingly involved in political activity outside of partisan politics, such as through civil society organizations or demonstrations In Europe in particular, the growth of postmaterialist values of identity have reduced the salience of left-right economic politics while increasing the salience of cultural issues, creating “tripolar” political competition. Daniel Oesch and Line Rennwald argue that culture has become a third pole off of the left/right economic axis, with voters on the left voting on both economic and cultural concerns, center-right voting on economic concerns over cultural ones, and radical right voting for cultural concerns over economic ones.
Invernizzi-Accetti and Wolkenstien suggest that parties’ increased methods of deliberation have failed to staunch membership losses because these efforts have typically been efforts to aggregate member preferences, in the form of expanding voting rights to members such as in party primaries and referendums. Such an approach fails to engage members in debate that can sharpen their individual understandings and attachments to particular issues. For that reason, they argue that parties need to better institute more internally deliberative procedures, or discussion and debate among members.
Parties Can Increase Demand by Revitalizing Partisanship
Beyond increased deliberation, parties need to revitalize partisanship, which can lower alienation from and indifference to parties and reduce party system volatility. Historically, politicalized social cleavages such as class, religion, ethnolinguistic group, or urban-rural divides have given rise to parties that were deeply rooted in society. Many of these cleavages can be exclusionary, and exclusionary political competition can raise the risk of large-scale political instability, including democratic breakdown. However, class and religion are historical political cleavages that are the least exclusionary in societies with expectations of class mobility and in which religious appeals transcend class and ethnicity.
Parties can boost their electoral fortunes by reemphasizing left/right economic policy differences because economic policy convergence has been a key driver of voter dealignment and party system volatility. In Latin American countries in the 1980s and 1990s, where established parties of both the center-left and center-right in Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Venezuela collapsed after converging on economic policy, Argentina’s Justicialist Party thrived in the 2000s by turning back to the left and away from the market-friendly policies it had championed in the preceding decade.
Revitalizing traditional center-left parties will continue to be a challenge, as they have lost considerable support to both Green parties and right-wing populists. Shari Berman has argued that the center-left in Europe has collapsed because of a dearth of new ideas to adjust to the realities of an ever-changing global economy. Cas Mudde believes that the ideas necessary to revitalize a new, modern class consciousness and the politics of social democracy will first have to come from think tanks and other civil society organizations outside of center-left parties. Mudde would say that social democratic party leadership and voters have become acculturated to centrist politics over the course of the past several decades, with leadership becoming accustomed to being a party in power rather than representing the interests of a social group regardless of electoral consequences, and with voters being more attuned to individualist rather than collectivist values. Embracing redistributive social democracy tenets could prove costly to center-left parties in the medium-term if voters are initially unreceptive to the message and the center-left repeatedly finds itself out of government and in opposition.
State Can Increase the Supply of Political Parties by Strengthening Their Partner Organizations
States can play a role in increasing the demand for political parties by supporting partner organizations like labor unions, which tend to have more stable levels of electoral support. Partner organizations, with stable leadership connected both to the grassroots and to political party leaders, can use their deep ties to the community as a channel to communicate ordinary citizens’ concerns to party leaders while also reliably turning out the vote. Revitalizing labor unions can be a key step to staunch the decline of mainstream center-left parties, which have seen their support collapse in many Western European countries.
States Can Increase the Demand for Political Parties through Compulsory Voting
Given the persistent mobilization issues confronting mainstream center-left and center-right parties, boosting the demand for parties may be a more viable option to strengthen their fortunes. States can most directly bolster the demand for political parties by enacting compulsory voting, which can increase voter turnout and individual attachment to political parties. Compulsory voting can reengage the “apolitical” who have dropped out of voting altogether, and potentially turn them into the type of “habitual partisans” that had previously dominated the electorate. However, the apolitical will only be able to effectively engage in voting if they receive enough information on party platforms to determine which best reflects their individual interests and preferences.
even if compulsory can increase voter turnout and reduce party vote switching, would requiring voters to choose a party actually improve accountability or merely reinforce the “cartel” aspect of modern political parties by allowing them to capture the votes of the least informed voters? Peter Selb and Romain Lachat’s study of voters in Belgium, who should be highly experienced because the country has had compulsory male voting for more than a century, found that the least knowledgeable 10 percent of voters still thought that the more statist Social Democrats and the more market-oriented Liberal Party were indistinguishable on economic policy. The same study found that the quarter of voters who said they would not vote under voluntary voting tended to cast their ballots for parties whose platforms had very little correspondence with the voters’ expressed preferences.
In the absence of a legal norm of compulsory voting, countries can still boost voter turnout and increase voters’ bonds with political parties by enforcing a social norm of voting. Social embarrassment has been an important part of complying with a social norm of compulsory voting in countries like Italy One field experiment found that turnout increased by eight percentage points if people’s past voting records (in terms of voting or abstaining) were exposed to their neighbors through direct mailings. In addition—and unsurprisingly—turnout is 10 percentage points higher in countries that make voting easier through such options as voting by mail, in advance, or by proxy.
Public-Private Partnerships Can Produce Broad-Based Economic Growth
In Western Europe’s first three decades after World War II, high economic growth produced a period of more harmonious relations between workers and management as mediated by the state. With the end of catch-up economic growth, labor-capital relations broke down, with workers seeking to maintain wages and benefits that increasingly cut into management’s narrowing profit margins. To increase firm profitability, countries began to cut taxes and reduce the welfare state; however, austerity and welfare state reduction has prompted considerable backlash.
Dealing with Populists in the Electoral Arena
Given the trend of declining political party influence and accompanying voter hostility to political parties in multiple global regions, in the absence of efforts to re-energize parties’ connections to voters, the emergence of new populist parties is likely to be a recurring feature of politics. Once populists are in government, domestic and international actors have much more limited options in dealing with populists and checking any threats they might pose to democratic governance, and such efforts can reinforce populists’ messaging that they are battling a cartel of corrupt domestic and international elites.
For domestic actors, the electoral arena may be the most effective way to counter any threats populists pose to democracy. Mainstream parties’ colluding to deny populists a chance at governing can reinforce populists supporters’ beliefs about the “corrupt elites” and can undemocratically exclude the constituency that populists represent. In Poland in 2006-2007, the main center-right opposition party Civic Platform chose to selectively oppose the right-wing populist Law and Justice’s (PiS) coalition government on a policy-by-policy basis, and when the government collapsed amid allegations of coalition partners’ corruption, Civic Platform won the subsequent early elections In Venezuela, by contrast, the opposition’s support of extraconstitutional measures, including an unsuccessful coup attempt, undermined its ability to check left-wing populist Hugo Chavez’s abuses of power by contributing to polarization and discrediting the idea that the opposition supported democracy
Revitalizing Political Parties Would Revitalize Democracy
Revitalizing political parties would serve to both improve democratic accountability and democratic resilience. Parties themselves have the biggest opportunity to halt their own decline by more directly engaging members in substantive internal deliberation. States can play a role in increasing the supply of political parties through subsidies that bolster parties’ partner organizations and in boosting the demand for political parties by making voting compulsory (with appropriate accommodations for voters). Given present trends, the alternative is a world with a more anti-government protests over a lack of responsiveness, as in France, or over a lack of democracy, as in Sudan—a world in which a growing number of countries is subject to increasing unrest and the rapid rise and fall of personalist parties, with continuing dissatisfaction with democracy, greater risk of democratic breakdown, and continual policy instability in between.