Strengthening the roles of political parties in Public Accountability - A case study of a new approach in political party assistance

Renée Speijcken


Donors in development cooperation increasingly emphasize the importance of public accountability in developing countries for the good functioning of democratic institutions, governance and the effectiveness of their aid. Political parties are prime actors in a democratic society that have essential roles to fulfil in public accountability. However, only few donors work with them. As a result, there is relatively little knowledge and experience available. This paper aims to contribute to this body of knowledge by assessing how and to what extent a new approach of so called 'Centre's for Multiparty Democracy', national platforms for and by political parties, assist parties in their key roles between citizen and state to enhance public accountability. This is done in a case study on Kenya. The paper also explores the main constraints to public accountability and to what extent cooperation between parties and civil society has been enhanced. A new conceptual framework that differentiates political party's roles in public accountability in four domains and three phases of the accountability process is used to assess CMD-Kenya's contribution. The paper concludes that CMDs' approach explores interesting new ways to strengthen the roles of parties in public accountability. Its main contribution lies in enhancing mutual trust and strengthening politicians' awareness of the value that parties have to add to a democratic society in providing them with a platform that helped them to establish their identities as parties. At the same time societal trust in parties was strengthened by organizing joint projects between parties and civil society actors. Considering its recent set up in 2004, CMD-K has been relatively successful in initiating modest changes in some of the formal practices and policies of parties and to some extent in the behaviour of individual politicians. On the other hand deeper changes in the underlying 'rules of the game', in parties' stability and their added value to society, have hardly been realized as strong traditional informal power relations, donor dependency, institutional governance problems and managing multiple accountabilities on multiple levels pose serious threats to CMD-Kenya's functioning and therefore to its clout and relevance in the future.

Keywords: Public Accountability, Political Parties , Development Cooperation, Political Party Assistance, Democratization, Impact evaluation, Political Economy Analysis

Download the working paper