Preaching water, drinking wine? General perceptions on political parties and internal party democracy in East Africa and the case of Mali

Seminar date: 
09 September 2008
Speaker(s): Josh Maiyo and Martin van Vliet

Josh Maiyo has an MSc in political science from the University of Amsterdam and is currently doing an MPhil at Leiden University on democratic consolidation and internal party democracy in East Africa, having done extensive fieldwork in Uganda, Tanzania and Kenya. He used to work as a journalist in East Africa before joining Radio Netherlands Worldwide as a specialist on African affairs.
Martin van Vliet studied cultural anthropology and the sociology of non-western societies at the University of Leiden and now works as a political advisor on Africa for the Netherlands Institute for Multi-Party Democracy (NIMD). He is currently writing a PHD proposal on democratization processes in Africa with a focus on political accountability and the role of political parties.

Political parties in Africa have been characterized as convenient and temporary tools by which the political elite seek to access or retain power and tend to be transformed, dissolved and recreated with each election cycle. These forms of social organization are often constructed along ethnic, regional, religious or sectarian cleavages but in highly heterogeneous societies, political organization and affiliations are very fluid and change as alliances shift in the interest of contesting or retaining power. They exhibit an acute lack of internal democracy and institutionalization. With the exception of a few dominant parties, such as the CCM in Tanzania, most are personality cults cultivated by ethnic or regional chieftains, hereditary successions or structures of patronage and clientelism. Political parties have thus failed to be effective agents that can deliver the competitive and representative multiparty democracy they promise. 
In the main presentation, Josh Maiyo traces the factors that have influenced political party organization, structure and behaviour across Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania in the context of on-going democratic transition. In an additional case study based on recent research, Martin van Vliet will focus on the role of informal elite networks within a major Malian party and the processes of candidate selection among the political parties there.

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