Discussion: (Political Parties - Political Inclusiveness and Participation - Good Governance - Institution Building)
I write my capstone project on the topic of consolidation of democracy. It should be a very informative and enlightening project. Proceed to check out the excerpt from it.
There is general agreement in most African countries that a process of political transition to pluralism and democracy must be an integral part of the overall process of economic and social development. It is only within the framework of such a political transition that African countries can achieve the national integration which was lacking under both colonialism and the one-party state. In the same vein, the establishment of good governance, accompanied by accountability and transparency, which is so important for investor confidence, is more likely to be achieved within a pluralistic system that is moving toward democracy. Moreover, given the reduction in levels of official development assistance and concerns about the effective use of such resources, aid is increasingly going to those countries which demonstrate a willingness to introduce political reforms and expand popular participation in the decision-making process.
The GCA Political Committee meeting in Ouagadougou in October, 1996, acknowledged that the significant wave of multiparty elections in the majority of African countries since 1990 is a positive development. Nevertheless, the meeting also reached the conclusion that these elections do not constitute successful transitions to democracy, much less the consolidation of democracy. Rather, early multiparty elections constitute a necessary first step in a long process of developing both a culture of democracy, and the necessary institutions to make democracy function as it should.
Above all, the first elections should represent a commitment by the political elites to the building of a new system characterized by popular participation, alternation of power through peaceful change, tolerance and appreciation of oppositionists and their points of view, and government that is closer and more responsive to the aspirations of the population. In a number of African countries, this commitment is in the process of slowly being fulfilled. In others, unfortunately, such a commitment does not yet exist, with multiparty elections having been undertaken half-heartedly mainly as a result of internal and external pressure. In such countries, there is considerable energy expended by the political leadership to prevent or delay changes in the status quo.
In those countries where the political leadership have made a sincere commitment to embark on the path of transition to real pluralism, the first multiparty election should constitute a compact between the leadership and the population that the process will encompass meaningful political, economic and social change. If a second election and third election are held after the constitutionally prescribed number of years, and the population has not sensed the beginnings of significant change, their interest in electoral participation will certainly decline, to the detriment of the overall transition. Indeed, in some African countries where there have been a succession of multiparty elections, and where there has been virtually no change for the better with respect to governance or popular participation, the term "pseudo democracy" has already come into use.
The quality of the initial multiparty elections, of course, also has a bearing on the nature of the initial phases of transition. Where these elections have been marked by a significant degree of quality debate and honest and transparent electoral organization, transitions have gotten off to a fairly good start. There have been some good examples in Africa which include, but are not limited to, South Africa, Ghana, Benin and Mali. Botswana and Mauritius, of course, have been holding competent multiparty elections for much longer. At the other end of the spectrum, in countries where elections were subject to widespread criticism or condemnation with respect to unfair or fraudulent practices, political transitions have essentially been languishing. Equatorial Guinea, Nigeria, the Gambia and Niger stand out in this category.
Many African countries have embarked upon a process of political transition with the objective of institutionalizing democratic practices through the growth of a culture of democracy that is compatible with their own political and cultural traditions, and through the development of both governmental and civil society institutions that are necessary to make democracy operational. In no country will the process be without strain, and even political conflict, as different interests are affected by change. Temporary setbacks are therefore to be expected. The consolidation of democracy can be said to have been accomplished when such reversals, in the form of coups or the return of authoritarianism, are neither likely nor acceptable in a particular country. Experiences in other parts of the world outside Africa, including the more established democracies in the West, teach us that the process is necessarily arduous and long term. What is significant, therefore, is for countries to continue moving forward on the path of democratic transition with the understanding that the facilitation of change, and meaningful citizen participation in policy-making, constitute the essential framework for eventual consolidation.
Within the context of invigorating political transition, and moving it in the right direction, key issues that require attention in the aftermath of multiparty elections include how to effective representation and participation, post-election institution building, and governance.
1. Political Parties
In a pluralistic political system, the existence of viable political parties is virtually indispensable. To date, no other vehicles that can mobilize opinion and voting support around specific ideas, interest groups and personalities as effectively as parties have been developed. Moreover, in a country that protects basic human rights, the right of association is one of the most fundamental. In such an environment, the formation of political parties is a natural development. Indeed, in the never-ending process of protecting political pluralism from the danger of reversal to authoritarianism, political parties play an essential front-line role, since it is they who sense the erosion of democratic practices before anyone else. Above all, in the day-to-day operations of government, political parties can, and should, provide an essential communications link between policy-makers and the populations who are affected by governmental actions, or inaction. In other words, political parties, are a vital component of the democratic process, especially when they are not based on ethnic, religious or geographic affiliation.
By contrast, in the single-party system, the party and the state were one and the same. The party was treated, and funded, in almost the same way as a government ministry. Therefore, there were no problems of financing, internal democracy, access to media, and the role of opposition. The single party was concerned only with the objective of mobilizing public opinion behind the policies and actions of government. In a pluralistic system, political parties have a more complex role and a more difficult operational challenge, whether they are in power or in opposition. How well they function and fulfill their roles are therefore important to the success or failure of political transition.
There has been sufficient experience with multiparty politics in Africa since 1990 to allow for a review of fundamental problems surrounding political parties and their role in the consolidation of democracy.
a. Funding: The availability of appropriate financing for mobilization and educational activities by parties is of fundamental importance in all democratic countries worldwide. In Africa, the party funding issue has not really been addressed seriously within the continent's social and economic context. A number of formulae have been tried in a few countries. These include the establishment of official party-support funds that are distributed on the basis of electoral performance. In some countries, political parties have to rely totally on private funding, with no assistance available from government. In Mozambique emerging from civil war, a UN trust fund was set up to funnel foreign contributions to political parties. In some countries, direct foreign support for individual parties is either allowed or ignored. In general, no formula to date has proven fully satisfactory.
Governing parties, which are often the same as the former single-party monopolies, tend to have sufficient funds left over from earlier days, as well as well-oiled party machines throughout the country. As a result, opposition parties are constantly complaining about the absence of funds, claiming that government parties have an unfair advantage. They frequently have a point, in that the advantages of incumbency found everywhere in the world are frequently overwhelming in Africa. This is largely because in most African countries the government is still the source of most services and benefits, and governing parties have access to both the public and private press and the administrative structure, as well as to funding. On the other hand, some of these same opposition parties are often poorly organized, represent individuals rather than broad interest groups, do not present coherent or relevant programs, and therefore find it difficult to attract local funding.
b. Formation and Functioning: In many African countries, the formation and functioning of political parties are still subject to regulations and laws which tend to curtail activities or make the recruitment of members very difficult. Applications for permits to hold meetings and rallies are sometimes denied for no legal or logical reason. And even when political meetings are authorized, the "security" provided by para-military forces is often intimidating to those who might want to participate. Parties in the governmental majority usually do not suffer from these handicaps. Nevertheless, the failure of some opposition parties to make a significant impact is not necessarily always due to government-imposed restrictions. The lack of internal democracy, the absence of broad-based representation, personality clashes among leaders, and other organizational problems continue to characterize opposition parties in a number of African countries. The narrow support base of political parties, including those which become part of the governmental power structure, is often a problem. This is particularly true when the base is confined to a particular geographic region or ethnic group. Some constitutions or electoral laws have established ground rules to prevent ethnic politics from becoming too extreme.
The management of political parties requires training in administration, organization and the role of parties in the political process. Moreover, in a number of African countries, the role of the opposition as a "democratic partner" is far from appreciated or understood, even by oppositionists themselves who sometimes focus exclusively on destabilizing the governmental power structure. Because of the unsatisfactory performance of political parties in a number of countries, the idea of a "no-party" system has been attracting some attention in Africa. In such a system, candidates stand for election as individuals rather than as party representatives. In Uganda, for example, parties have been prohibited by law from operating as election competitors since 1991, apparently with the approval of the majority of the electorate. But it is expected that the Uganda system will be only temporary until such time as the wounds of the political disasters of the past are healed. In effect, free pluralistic societies that protect human rights cannot reasonably deny the right of association, and therefore the right to form political parties. Nevertheless, there is also a certain sentiment in Africa that would like to facilitate the ability of individuals to run for office without any organizational affiliation, in parallel with the classic party system.
c. Access to Media: Access to the state-owned media by non-governmental parties is almost always cited as a key problem. While there is a relatively free press in most African countries, the channel that gives the most access to the population is radio, which is virtually always a government monopoly. In cases of government monopoly over radio and TV, a formula is needed to give all parties appropriate and frequent access to the public through these channels. In a growing number of countries, radio frequencies are being opened to non-governmental groups who operate them either as businesses for profit or for educational purposes. These stations are becoming outlets for many different political voices.
2. Political Inclusiveness and Participation
If the results of the first multiparty election is a continuing single-party monopoly of governmental power, then political transition toward democracy is starting out under a serious handicap. Just as governments need to be strong in order to carry out vital economic and political reforms, political parties on both the government and opposition sides need to be strong and viable in order to maintain a lively and substantive debate over proposed governmental actions and policies. In addition, the presence of a strong and vocal opposition is a key element in assuring accountability and transparency in government, as well as the protection of democratic rights. The existence of an ongoing substantive debate over policy is also important to keep the people informed, and therefore to enhance their overall education for democracy.
a. The Conduct of Elections: The first major issue is the cost of elections in a context of minimal resources which are stretched thin across the spectrum of governmental responsibilities and obligations. The cost of voter registration, voter education and actual voting and vote counting can be heavy in terms of personnel, material and logistical expenses. Work needs to be done in finding ways to lower these expenses, possibly through decentralization of functions and the use of advanced technology. In principle, after the first experience, subsequent elections should be less costly because equipment that has been purchased should be largely reusable with appropriate maintenance and storage. That is why it is important to make maximum use of donor assistance for first elections in terms of equipment purchases and training, since the levels of electoral assistance are bound to decrease with time. On-going education of citizens as to their rights and responsibilities, as well as increased availability of information about the processes and conduct of elections will, over time, also minimize the need for large scale voter education programs prior to elections.
In addition to the financing of campaigns and fair access to media by the candidates, the actual physical administration of elections has become a major issue. Accusations of irregularities, and even outright rigging, have become commonplace among those defeated in elections, including some who represent the government. The existence of administrative irregularities, often acknowledged by the election organizers themselves, tend to diminish the legitimacy of elections, especially when opposition candidates suffer the greatest inconvenience. Administrative difficulties often occur in districts where the opposition is predicted to win. Ballot papers are not delivered until the election elsewhere is virtually completed. The results of vote counting are sometimes not announced for weeks, causing suspicion that the totals are being altered.
In more subtle terms, voting places are sometimes located next to the homes of officials or traditional authorities who support the governmental candidates, serving as a thinly veiled element of voter intimidation. In some countries, announced election results often do not achieve popular credibility because communities often know who should have won in their areas despite the existence of a secret ballot. In some instances, where international and domestic election observers have described elections as truly free and fair, losing parties have issued accusations of fraud anyway in an attempt to discredit both the election and the government that is subsequently formed.
With all of these problems of election administration, there are growing demands in Africa for independent electoral commissions which are supposed to be controlled by "neutral" persons well known in the community for their integrity and patriotism. Some governments have acquiesced to these demands, while others have insisted that the conduct of elections is a governmental responsibility. Election boycotts by opposition groups who do not feel there is a level playing field have become increasingly commonplace. Although these groups argue that they have no other alternative to protest against unfairness, boycotts do not appear to contribute to the growth of democratic culture. This is especially true when elections are actually free and fair, and the losers cry fraud in order to divert attention from their own inadequacies.
International groups specializing in election monitoring have worked extensively in Africa with mixed results, leading to a growing feeling that foreign election support should concentrate instead on the training and equipping of domestic groups to perform these vital services. There is also the problem that the presence of international observers can give legitimacy to a rigged election. In the final analysis, domestic groups have the benefit of being present throughout the process of election organizing, and therefore better understand the underlying issues, while foreign groups tend to be present mainly toward the end of that process, and sometimes have a limited knowledge of the country.
b. Electoral Systems: If the opposition is a vital partner in democratic government, how can a lively opposition presence be assured? In this regard, different types of electoral systems are sometimes discussed in terms of their impact on inclusiveness. The system of proportional representation, it is argued, will assure losing parties a share of seats in Parliament commensurate with their percentage of the popular vote, and thus broadens the base of representation. The disadvantage is that the election of members to parliament by party lists tends to remove the element of parliamentarians belonging to specific districts and identifying with the needs of specific populations. There is also the danger in proportional representation of proliferation and splintering of parties, many of which have very narrow bases.
Country Examples of Electoral Systems
In preparation for Namibia's independence in 1990, constitution writers feared that too many small parties would be established in an effort to win one or two seats in Parliament in a PR system. On the other hand, a winner-take-all system might have resulted in a virtual monopoly of seats by SWAPO. The final system adopted was proportional representation, with a requirement for a party to win a minimum of 5,000 votes before it could hold a single seat in parliament, a system utilized in some European countries. This forced a number of tiny parties to combine forces in an effort to win some representation.
Some countries, such as South Africa, have experimented with hybrid systems with elements of both proportional representation and single member districts. In such systems, a certain number of seats are elected on a PR basis, with the remainder elected on a winner-take-all basis in individual districts.
In Mauritius, which has a history of major election sweeps which alternate the main parties in monopoly power situations fairly frequently, has a system of "best losers" which allocate some parliamentary seats to the losing parties which had the highest number of votes.
Plurality-majority systems, on the other hand, have the advantages of simplicity and of ensuring that representatives have a responsibility to their geographic constituencies. These systems also tend to encourage the formation of broad-based dominant parties, single party governments and clearly defined parliamentary opposition, and facilitate the election of independent candidates. The fragmentation of political parties which can occur under systems of proportional representation is discouraged by plurality-majority systems. However, it can be argued that minority parties, which may win a reasonable proportion of the vote, are not afforded commensurate seats in parliament, and that parties can rely on a regional vote, thus reducing their need to appeal to voters across regional or ethnic lines. Any system of single member district voting can also be vulnerable to the manipulation of electoral boundaries. (Annex 1 provides additional information on African countries and their electoral systems.)
Adequate representation of women and minority groups in parliament is an issue in African countries, as elsewhere. Proportional representation systems can facilitate this, in that party lists can be drawn in order to ensure that candidates from all groups are included. However, this is by no means automatic, and care has to be taken to ensure that the lists themselves are representative. In some countries, the electoral law stipulates that a certain number of women candidates have to be fielded, while in others parties have adopted informal quotas for women and minority groups.
Although not directly connected to electoral systems, the issue of the balance of power between executives and legislatures is also important to a number of African countries which have opted for "presidential systems" of government. In some countries, the constitutional powers given to directly elected presidents are significantly more important than those given to parliament, making those governments similar in appearance to the predecessor one-party states.
c. Power Sharing: For the early years of transition, some analysts have recommended governments of national unity, especially in ethnically divided countries. The winners take the losers into the government so that both can share responsibility for governing and, at the same time, learn about the complexities. This idea is especially significant after the first multiparty election when there is a need to demonstrate that there are no real losers in a democratic process. It is particularly important in a post-conflict situation as an element of ongoing conflict management. Participation in government can also serve as good training for opposition who frequently understand neither their proper role nor the functioning of government. Moreover, power-sharing can in fact be a means of protecting democracy against the return of the single-party system. So far, there has not been much enthusiasm for such arrangements in Africa, with winners feeling they want to rule without interference, and the defeated parties sometimes feeling compromised by their losing the opportunity to expose deficiencies of government policies and programs, and being denied the chance to present their alternative ideas and proposals.
d. Decentralization: Probably the most significant failing of the one-party state has been the alienation of the general population, especially those living outside the capital cities or the President's own province. The highly centralized one-party state, with concentration of authority and decision-making in the party/government leadership, and rubber-stamp parliaments had very little knowledge of the thinking of their citizenry. The communications flow was essentially "top-down". Consequently, many Africans found their governments to be distant and aloof, and relevant only as collectors of revenue.
In some of the new pluralistic systems, elected African leaders are experimenting with decentralizing and empowering citizens at the lowest possible level by assigning them control over a certain amount of resources and decision-making. In some of the larger countries, such as Ethiopia, South Africa and Congo (K), recent constitutions have established federal systems, with some powers and budgetary resources allotted to elected regional or provincial governments. In these countries, there is considerable debate over the division of resources between the central and regional governments.
In those countries where the availability of trained persons is still low, provincial governments sometimes lack the capacity to fulfill enhanced responsibilities. In others, such as Mali, decentralization is more focused on sharing decision-making power between the people and the central authorities. In these countries, increasing attention is being paid to objectives and priorities defined by citizens themselves, and to how communities and the government can effectively collaborate to achieve them. In essence, decentralization is as much a state of mind and approach to governmental power, as it is the creation of new sets of administrative structures. In the overall area of decentralization also, African traditional structures are being reconsidered and increasingly recognized and utilized with respect to their moral authority and understanding of local sentiment.
3. Good Governance
Just as good governance practices are the building blocks of successful economic reform and renewal, they are also essential elements of the consolidation of democracy. Whereas a democratic culture needs time to develop, some good governance practices can be promulgated fairly rapidly, and certain activities can be quickly put in place, thereby demonstrating early meaningful change from the one-party state's ways of conducting government business. Some of the practices that can contribute to the consolidation of democracy and instill confidence include:-
a. Transparency: The opening of governmental procedures and deliberations to public examination and debate can be dramatic and effective. This is especially true for open financial accounting that allows the public to know at all times where revenues are coming from and how they are expended. High government officials, starting with the Head of State, can contribute to an atmosphere of transparency by holding regular press conferences and responding frankly and honestly to questions. The availability of government information is also important. A free press cannot really fulfill its function effectively as an element of democratic transition unless it has free access to information about government processes and decisions.
b. Accountability: A frank and open debate over government policies in parliament is an excellent way for governments to demonstrate accountability to the people's representatives. The one-party state mentality tends to take parliaments for granted, while pluralistic governments need competent and involved parliaments in order to carry on a meaningful policy dialogue. The appointment of independent ombudsman offices with the power to investigate complaints can also go a long way toward instilling confidence that governments are transparent and that redress is available for citizens who feel they have not been treated fairly. Accountability, of course, also extends to budgetary performance and financial integrity.
c. Facilitation: Private citizens in Africa tend to view government bureaucracies as obstructionist and predatory. Licensing, regulations, and permits inhibit and delay private sector activity, especially in the formal business sector. Early action to end unnecessary practices in areas that affect large segments of the population would go a long way to instill confidence and a sense of meaningful change. The political levels of government need to improve the way they interact with the civil service so as to inspire confidence, trust and respect, and to set an example of public service as opposed to public obstructionism.
4. Institution Building
The consolidation of democracy is achieved essentially through the building of a democratic political culture which in turn depends to a great extent on the development of the institutions which constitute the foundation of democracy. These include institutions that existed throughout the period of the authoritarian state, such as the judiciary and the legislature, which need renewal and strengthening. They also include new institutions of civil society which are important as a countervailing power to the state and as mobilizers of opinion on key issues of the day during periods between elections.
a. The Judiciary: One of the most notorious elements of the authoritarian state culture is the political manipulation of the judiciary. There is no greater deterrent to citizen confidence in the role of the state as a neutral arbiter and promoter of the public welfare, than the knowledge that fair decisions based on law are not available in the courts. The court system needs to be given its independence as well as the physical and financial means to do its work correctly. While judges and magistrates are generally appointed by governments in most countries of the world, they normally should not be removable before the end of their assigned term limits, if any, except for reasons of gross malfeasance as determined by boards of peers. Lower level magistrates can also be appointed through civil service competition. Where the independence of the judiciary is implicitly or explicitly threatened by the ability of the executive to appoint and dismiss judges, the court system cannot hold the confidence of investors and ordinary citizens. The issue of access to justice is also important, especially for the majority of the people who cannot afford to hire legal counsel.
In a large number of African countries, customary law and traditional systems of justice co-exist with modern codified legal systems. Each can play a role, and there are many instances, particularly involving settlement of disputes, in which traditional structures are more useful and carry greater legitimacy within communities. However, in some instances, customary law and traditional practices can be contrary to the legislation passed by countries, and tensions can arise. In some countries, women have complained that customary laws which disadvantage them tend to be more readily observed by families and communities in instances of inheritance and land ownership. Furthermore, care has to be taken that customary law does not infringe on the rights of citizens.
b. The Legislature: When parliaments have no substantive role except to act as a rubber stamp for executive decisions, the quality and intellectual standards of parliamentarians are not important. In a democratic transition and beyond, parliaments have an important role to play in holding governments accountable and, equally importantly, in legislating for the national good. This requires parliamentarians who can deal in-depth with a variety of issues, including budgets, economic policy, and a host of technical subjects. Democratic legislatures need their independent resources, qualified personnel, and training opportunities for parliamentarians who either lack education or the requisite experience in specific policy areas. Basic skill training in such subjects as how to read a budget and how to write legislation are important to the good functioning of any legislature, as is the existence of a vigorous committee system. Parliamentarians, of course, also play the crucial role of representing the people and reflecting the aspirations, problems and complaints of the districts that elected them. Here too, they need the training, skills and resources to fulfill this function.
c. The Military: While there is a general consensus in Africa that democratic transition requires the renewal and possible restructuring of existing institutions, there is a tendency within the military in some countries to want to maintain the status quo. The army, after all, must fulfill its traditional role of defending the national sovereignty and territorial integrity, a task which does not change with changes in the form of government. Nevertheless, some African countries have a history of military rule which means that the military does not always necessarily favor democratization, nor does it automatically have a vocation of supporting democratic processes. For those African countries where the military have consistently maintained professional standards and have remained aloof from politics, the transition to pluralism is facilitated. Serious thought and discussion is necessary to define a new role for the military in both the process of democratization and in the process of economic development.
The loyalty of the military to a democratic constitution as opposed to its former loyalty to a one-party system, may have implications for the way the military is utilized, trained and configured. The potential use of the military in safeguarding internal security is probably less desirable in a democratic system than it was under the one-party state. If that is the case, the question arises as to what exactly is the appropriate day-to-day role of the military in Africa in the majority of countries where external threats are minimal. As the military is a user of scarce resources, the question arises as to how military personnel, equipment, skills and training exercises can be utilized in support of national developmental objectives. Several African countries are undertaking military restructuring, and within this context there is considerable discussion as to both the mission and the mandate of the military in a changing political and economic environment. Issues of regional security arrangements and regional training for peace keeping operations have come to the fore as part of this discussion.
d. The Civil Service: The bureaucracy is where it is the most difficult, in many African countries, to get rid of outmoded ideas. Obstacles to change are often entrenched within the civil service. In some areas of the civil service, the reorientation of the economy toward market systems, the decentralization of administrative authority, and the introduction of increased transparency can appear to be threatening to careers. Moreover, where salaries have failed to rise with the cost of living in the former regimes, bureaucratic corruption and low motivation have ensued, which in some cases, have continued into the new pluralistic systems of government. The offices of civil administration are where the general public have most of their interaction with government at all levels. If civil servants lack motivation, or hold the view that control and prohibition are their primary functions, as opposed to service and facilitation, the people will regard government as an obstacle to be avoided, rather than as an agent of cooperation, change and advancement.
In general, civil service reform is essential for both economic expansion and the consolidation of democracy. In this regard, it is noteworthy that among the countries in Africa which are ahead of the others in both economic growth and consolidation of democracy, Mauritius and Botswana have paid particular attention to the creation of an apolitical, professional civil service.
e. Civil Society: Under the single-party system, much of civil society tended to be absorbed into the all-embracing party. This was especially true for youth groups, the press, women's groups, labor unions, chambers of commerce, agricultural cooperatives, and a variety of professional and cultural organizations. Having been co-opted by the single-party system, civil society was unable to fulfill the important role of supplying a reality check on governmental power. Interest groups were unable to defend their interests because all wisdom came from the top. The growth of a democratic culture will depend heavily on the growth of a lively and extensive civil society, with the capability of acting as a communications link between the people, with all of their complex and overlapping interests, and the governmental authorities.
There is no fixed list of organizations, societies, movements, interest groups or associations that constitute civil society in any country. In effect, civil society is the sum total of organized citizen activities, independent of government structures, designed to achieve a variety of professional, cultural, economic, business, social and political objectives. In a number of African countries, there has been a steady growth of civil society organizations since the holding of free and fair elections, especially in the area of human rights. Civil society is an important source of information and advocacy which enriches the political debate on priority-setting, both within and outside government. Civil society has the capability of mobilizing opinion in support of or in opposition to political decision-making.
In general, a broad-based and vibrant civil society contributes to the growth of a democratic culture largely because of its independence from government, and because it serves as a counterweight to government's overwhelming power over resources and information. The question arises, therefore, as to what contribution, if any, governments should be making to the strengthening of civil society organizations, since their value to democratization is based on their independence from government. At a minimum, it is possible to say that government should make sure that its regulatory authority, while quite legitimately seeking to protect citizens from fraud and abuse, should facilitate rather than hinder the growth of civil society. The facilitation of civil society is especially important for one of its key elements, the private business sector, which is expected to be the locomotive of economic growth. A vigorous civil society is important for the growth of democratic culture because there is no other way for individual citizens to hope to influence the actual deliberations of government on issues of direct relevance to them, beyond voting on election day, than through the myriad of groupings and activities that co-exist in the market place of interests and ideas.
As in other areas requiring change, the reform of political and administrative structures and procedures, especially with respect to government institutions such as the judiciary and the civil service, needs commitment and consistent effort over the long-term. Reforms also have resource implications which require prioritization and frank dialogue with development partners. Such dialogue should not, however, be limited to resources. Discussion is also useful in building better understanding between Africans and their donor counterparts of the issues and concerns which need to be addressed, and of developing greater awareness of the complexities of political and economic reform in most African countries. Moreover, although each country has to develop the political systems and implement the policy measures which best meet its own needs, exchange of experiences among and between countries in Africa and those in other regions can be of considerable value in the course of reform.
The transition to pluralism and the consolidation of democracy in an irreversible framework is necessarily a long and arduous process which effectively never ends as it advances from one threshold to the next. In democratic systems everywhere new issues arise and ways are found to address them, and institutional arrangements evolve to meet changing circumstances and needs. The countries of Africa are no exception. Multiparty elections, if done correctly, and with a sincere determination to change the status quo on the part of political elites, constitute the first small steps on the road to transition. There are some democratic reforms that can be instituted quickly, especially in the area of good governance, while others will need to evolve slowly commensurate with the growth of a democratic culture, as well as the accumulation of healthy experiences on the part of citizens who are sorely in need of reasons to have confidence in their political systems and leadership.