CONSIDERATIONS FOR PARTY REFORMERS
An ailing party can respond to challenges in many ways, writes
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.