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Confronting the Weakest Link

Confronting the Weakest Link: Aiding Political Parties in New Democracies

Copyright Date: 2006
Pages: 271
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  • Book Info
    Confronting the Weakest Link
    Book Description:

    Beset with persistent problems of self-interest, corruption, ideological incoherence, and narrow electoral majorities, political parties are the weakest link in many democratic transitions around the world. A large and ever-growing number of U.S., European, and multilateral assistance programs seek to help parties become effective pro-democratic actors. But given the depth of the problems, is success possible? Confronting the Weakest Linkis a pathbreaking study of international aid for political parties. Beginning with a penetrating analysis of party shortcomings in developing and postcommunist countries, Thomas Carothers draws on extensive field research to diagnose chronic deficiencies in party aid, assess its overall impact, and offer practical ideas for doing better. This critical analysis spans Latin America, Central and Eastern Europe, the former Soviet Union, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. It sheds invaluable light on a major element of the contemporary challenge of democracy building, a subject now occupying center stage in the international policy arena.

    eISBN: 978-0-87003-282-0
    Subjects: Sociology, Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. vii-viii)
    Jessica T. Mathews

    Democracy faces daunting challenges everywhere that it is being pursued, but especially in the approximately 100 countries that have made up democracy’s “Third Wave.” Ethnic, religious, and other sectarian conflicts, illiberal leaders elected by citizenries angry about corruption and insecurity, resurgent authoritarian structures that were never fully dismantled in abrupt transitions, windfall oil and gas revenues emboldening strongmen leaders—the threats to democracy only seem to grow. Diverse though it is, the global landscape of attempted democratization is marked by a ubiquitous institutional deficiency: troubled political parties that command scant respect from their citizens due to the strong perception that...

  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. Parties and Organizations
    (pp. xi-xiv)

    • CHAPTER ONE The Standard Lament
      (pp. 3-18)

      In the global democratic trend that flourished in the last quarter of the twentieth century, approximately one hundred countries in the developing world and the former Soviet bloc experienced at least some movement away from authoritarian or totalitarian rule toward political openness. The outcomes of many of these attempted democratic transitions are still very much in question. It is unfortunately evident that many of the heady hopes for a better political future that soared around the world in the peak years of what Samuel Huntington labeled democracy’s “Third Wave” will be disappointed.¹ Nevertheless the world has experienced a tremendous increase...


    • CHAPTER TWO A Quick Global Tour
      (pp. 21-47)

      Behind the standard lament lies enormous variation in individual parties as well as in the overall patterns of party development in different countries. If we put aside the conventional Eurocentric lens for understanding parties and simply look at the realities of parties and their evolution in the developing and postcommunist worlds, a bewilderingly varied and unfamiliar landscape confronts us. The hundreds of parties in these regions (thousands if one counts small parties) differ markedly along many dimensions. Some parties are less than a year old, others more than a century old. Some are “briefcase” parties boasting no more than a...

    • CHAPTER THREE Diagnosing the Condition
      (pp. 48-74)

      The global tour of parties in the developing and postcommunist worlds highlights some important differences among parties in those regions. One of these differences is age. Parties in the developing and postcommunist worlds fall roughly into three generations. The most recent generation are parties created since the late 1980s, as part of the latest wave of political openings or democratization. Most parties in new or struggling democracies, at least in sheer numbers although often not necessarily in significance, fall into this generation. In fact, in some countries that are experiencing multiparty politics in a sustained way for the first time...


    • CHAPTER FOUR The World of Party Aid
      (pp. 77-111)

      Political parties are seriously troubled throughout the developing and postcommunist worlds. There is, however, an international response: dozens of organizations, primarily Western foundations or institutes affiliated with Western political parties, and also a growing number of multilateral organizations, are attempting to help strengthen or reform parties in new or struggling democracies all around the globe. Although most persons in Europe and the United States involved in diplomacy, development, human rights, or international politics generally are somewhat aware of the world of international political party aid, many have only a hazy understanding of its core features. Within countries on the receiving...

    • CHAPTER FIVE The Standard Method and Beyond
      (pp. 112-141)

      As I have argued in previous writings, most democracy assistance operates using a method I call “institutional modeling.”¹ Democracy promoters embrace a set of institutions as the key features of democracy. Their usual list includes free and fair elections; an independent, efficient judiciary; a representative, effective parliament; an active, independent civil society; and other familiar elements of the democracy promotion template. When they go to another society to promote democracy, they compare the state of the counterpart institutions there to what they believe such institutions should look like (based on real or idealized models from established democracies). They almost always...

    • CHAPTER SIX Interests and Partisanship
      (pp. 142-160)

      Although the current wave of democracy aid has been going on for more than 20 years and has grown into an extremely active, multifaceted domain populated by a wide array of organizations, it is still often questioned, doubted, or challenged in countries where it takes place. People in countries on the receiving end of democracy aid often ask, “What are the real objectives and intentions of these foreign organizations involving themselves in our political affairs?” Many people assume, quite naturally and understandably, that these foreign organizations have underlying interests different from their professed prodemocratic aims, above all to manipulate or...

    • CHAPTER SEVEN The Question of Effects
      (pp. 161-189)

      In studying and observing democracy promotion policies and programs over the years, I have often noticed that expectations or beliefs about the effects of such efforts fall into two quite divergent modes. On the one side, many people within the democracy promotion community believe that democracy-building activities can have significant, even transformative or catalytic effects if given sufficient financial and diplomatic support. Optimistic views of the effects of democracy building are especially common among U.S. democracy promoters.

      On the other side, many people involved in international affairs but outside the democracy promotion community have skeptical views. They operate from a...

    • CHAPTER EIGHT Party System Aid
      (pp. 190-210)

      During this decade, a new type of party aid has expanded rapidly: programs to support the development of party systems overall. Unlike the other forms of party aid, such efforts do not proceed party by party, giving training, advice, and other support to help strengthen or reform individual parties. Instead they seek to foster changes in all of the parties in a country at once, via modifications of the underlying legal and financial frameworks in which parties are anchored, or changes in how the parties relate to and work with each other.

      Party system programs that address the legal framework...


    • CHAPTER NINE Going Deeper
      (pp. 213-228)

      The troubled state of political parties in new or struggling democracies is a central challenge to democratization. Parties that are highly leadercentric, organizationally weak, corrupt and captive of wealthy financial backers, ideologically incoherent, poorly rooted in society, and narrowly focused on electioneering fail to fulfill core democratic functions. They do not represent citizens’ interests well, effectively incorporate citizens into the political process, present voters with clearly defined alternatives, or govern skillfully once in power. Not only is the pervasiveness of parties’ shortcomings striking, so too is their similarity across the highly varied economic, political, social, and cultural contexts of these...

  10. Notes
    (pp. 229-242)
  11. Bibliography
    (pp. 243-254)
  12. Index
    (pp. 255-270)
  13. About the Author
    (pp. 271-271)
  14. Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
    (pp. 272-272)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 273-273)