CON­SID­ER­A­TIONS FOR PARTY RE­FORM­ERS

An ail­ing party can re­spond to chal­lenges in many ways, writes

CityPress - - Voices - This is an edited ex­tract from Remaking the ANC

the power bro­kers who mo­bilise vot­ers in ex­change for re­sources are a threat as well as a re­source. More­over, slow­grow­ing and scle­rotic economies such as South Africa’s sim­ply can­not sus­tain pa­tron­age re­la­tion­ships on a suf­fi­cient scale to sway elec­tors. Money pol­i­tics is at the heart of the fac­tional strug­gles that have the power to tear a dom­i­nant party apart.

The avail­abil­ity of pub­lic fund­ing, trans­fers from paras­tatals, and pri­vate do­na­tions all have am­biva­lent ef­fects. Dis­tri­bu­tion and open­ness mat­ter: na­tional con­trol over fi­nan­cial re­sources, when com­bined with trans­parency leg­is­la­tion, can em­power the cen­tre of the party, limit the ac­cu­mu­la­tion of “war chests” at lower lev­els, and sta­bilise fac­tional jostling for of­fices.

Fourthly, lead­ers in the cen­tre must re­spond to the in­ter­ests and per­spec­tives of their party pe­riph­eries and re­gions. In mid­dle-in­come coun­tries, there are typ­i­cally vast de­vel­op­men­tal and eco­nomic gulfs be­tween ur­ban and ru­ral con­stituen­cies. A bal­ance must be struck be­tween cen­tral­i­sa­tion and de­cen­tral­i­sa­tion when it comes to can­di­date se­lec­tion, con­trol over the dis­tri­bu­tion of state and party re­sources, and the se­lec­tion of re­gional and na­tional lead­ers. It is es­sen­tial, in par­tic­u­lar, to avert large-scale re­gional de­fec­tions that can pro­vide a plat­form for the growth of op­po­si­tion chal­lengers.

Fifthly, the character of fac­tional pol­i­tics in a dom­i­nant, or once-dom­i­nant, party is cen­tral to its suc­cess. “Unity”, as Boucek ob­serves, “is a nec­es­sary, al­beit in­suf­fi­cient, con­di­tion for party dom­i­nance”. Dom­i­nant par­ties need to main­tain coali­tions of vot­ers, spe­cial groups and al­lied par­ties. Above all, in or­der to avoid “de­gen­er­a­tive fac­tion­al­ism”, they need to sus­tain a coali­tion of in­evitably com­pet­i­tive in­ter­nal fac­tions.

Fi­nally, the lead­ers of dom­i­nant par­ties threat­ened with de­feat can embrace elec­toral com­pe­ti­tion, re­sist it or sub­vert it. Some mem­bers of each of the dom­i­nant par­ties ex­plored in this vol­ume es­pouse na­tion­al­ist or quasi-so­cial­ist ide­olo­gies that can be used to jus­tify the ma­nip­u­la­tion of elec­toral rules and in­sti­tu­tions, to pro­mote mo­bil­i­sa­tion around race, re­li­gion or eth­nic­ity, to abuse free­dom of the me­dia and other po­lit­i­cal free­doms, and to sub­vert ju­di­cial in­de­pen­dence. The con­di­tions un­der which mild sub­ver­sion be­comes au­thor­i­tar­ian re­pres­sion are in part a prod­uct of de­lib­er­a­tion among dom­i­nant party lead­ers and strate­gists.

The ANC is not set on any in­eluctable path into the fu­ture. Our ex­plo­ration of the ex­pe­ri­ences of other gov­ern­ing par­ties in mid­dle-in­come de­vel­op­ing coun­tries demon­strates that many va­ri­eties of adap­ta­tion to de­feat, or to the threat of it, are avail­able to lead­ers of the lib­er­a­tion move­ment.

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