Democracy Out of Balance: Civil Society Can’t Replace Political Parties
By IVAN DOHERTY
Increasingly, resources are being channeled to programs that develop civil society to the exclusion of political parties and political institutions such as parliaments. Many private and public donors feel that it is more virtuous to be a member of a civic organization than a party and that participating in party activity must wait until there is a certain level of societal development. There is a grave danger in such an approach. Strengthening civic organizations, which represent the demand side of the political equation, without providing commensurate assistance to the political organizations that must aggregate the interests of those very groups, ultimately damages the democratic equilibrium. The neglect of political parties, and parliaments, can undermine the very democratic process that development assistance seeks to enhance. Without strong political patties and political institutions that are accountable and effective, that can negotiate and articulate compromises to respond to conflicting demands, the door is effectively open to those populist leaders who will seek to bypass the institutions of government, especially any system of checks and balances, and the rule of law.
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Ivan Doherty is the director of political party programs at the National Democratic Institute (NDI) and is a former general secretary of the Fine Gael Party in Ireland.
10/06/2011 – 12:00