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Governance and the Transition to Democracy: Political Parties and the Party System in Mali

  • Richard Vengroff

Although many African countries have had to address pressures for democratisation and are undergoing some form of transition, Mali is an especially interesting case which could provide useful insights into the durability of democracy on the continent and elsewhere. Mali has experienced extraordinary changes in the past two years leading to the almost total transformation of the political system from a highly authoritarian régime to one which has all the trappings of a liberal democracy. Unlike most other nations, Mali was fortunate in being able to write a new constitution and hold elections without the burden of continued participation in the process by a ruling party and head of state. Therefore, the more open procedures offer a better indication of the degree to which, given the opportunity, a modern democratic system can take root in the African milieu.

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1 See, for example, Decalo, Samuel, ‘The Process, Prospects and Constraints of Democratization in Africa’, in African Affairs (London), 91, 362, 01 1992, pp. 735.

2 See Vengroff, Richard, ‘Political Parties and the Party System in Mali’, in Vengroff, Sheldon Gellar, Benoît Ngom, and Bakary Tessery, ‘Democratic Governance in Mali: a strategic assessment’, Washington, DC, 10 1992;Clark, John, ‘The National Conference as a Path to Democracy in Africa’, African Studies Association, Seattle, 11 1992; and Nzrankeu, Jacques, ‘The Role of the National Conference in the Transition to Democracy in Africa: the cases of Benin and Mali’, in Issue: quarterly journal of opinion (Los Angeles), 21, 1993, pp. 4450.

3 Inglehart, Ronald, ‘The Renaissance of Political Culture’, in American Political Science Review (Washington, DC), 82, 4, 12 1988, p. 1204.Cf.Eckstein, Harry, ‘A Culturalist Theory of Political Change’, in ibid. 82, 3, September 1988, pp. 789–804.

4 Diamond, Larry, ‘Introduction: roots of failure, seeds of hope’, in Diamond, , Linz, Juan J., and Lipset, Seymour Martin (eds.), Democracy in Developing Countries, Vol. 2, Africa (Boulder and London, 1988), pp. 1314.

5 Decalo, loc. cit. p. 8.

6 The Carter Center, ‘Phases of Transition’, in Africa Demos 2 (Atlanta), 08 1992, p. 15. See also, Africa Demos 3, 2, 1993, p. 19.

7 See Diamond, Larry. Linz, Juan J., and Lipset, Seymour Martin (eds.), Politics in Developing Countries: comparing experiences with democracy (Boulder and London, 1990), pp. 1014. Also, Inglehart, loc. cit. p. 1203.

8 See Landell-Mills, Pierre and Serageldin, Ismail, ‘Governance and the External Factor’, World Bank's Annual Conference on Development Economics, Washington, DC, 25–26 04 1991.

9 Ibid. p. 3.

10 Hyden, Goran, ‘Governance and the Study of Polities’, in Hyden, and Bratton, Michael (eds.), Governance and Politics in Africa (Boulder and London, 1992), p. 7.

11 Charlick, Robert, ‘The Concept of Governance and Its Implications for A.I.D.'s Development Assistance Program’, Associates in Rural Development, Washington, DC, 06 1992, pp. 3 and 6–7.

12 For a fuller discussion of this question, see Vengroff, Richard, ‘The Impact of the Electoral System on the Transition to Democracy in Africa: the case of Mali’, in Electoral Studies (Guildford, Surrey), forthcoming 1994.

13 The complete list of parties can be found in Vengroff, , ‘Democratic Governance and the Party System in Mali’, pp. 37–8.

14 See Campmas, Pierre, L'Union soudanaise R.D.A. (Libreville, Gabon, 1978), and Imperato, Pascal James, Mali: a search for direction (Boulder and London, 1989), chs. 3 and 4.

15 See, for example, Hodgkin, Thomas, African Political Parties (Harmondsworth, 1961);Morgenthau, Ruth S., Political Parties in French Speaking West Africa (Oxford, 1964);Coleman, James S. and Rosberg, Carl G. (eds.), Political Parties and National Integration in Tropical Africa (Berkley and Los Angeles, 1964);Palombara, Joseph La and Weiner, Myron (eds.), Political Parties and Political Development (Princeton, 1966);Zolberg, Aristide R., Creating Political Order: the party-states of West Africa (Chicago, 1966); and McKown, Roberta and Kauffman, Robert, ‘Party System as a Comparative Analytic Concept in African Polities’, in Comparative Politics (New Brunswick), 6, 1973. pp. 267–96.

16 Legislation long on the books but forgotten allowed for the creation of non-political associations. When this was discovered by a Malian lawyer, it served as a justification for the existence of Adema.

17 Campmas, op. cit. and Morgenthau, op. cit.

18 Le Miroir (Bamako), 9 and 16 March 1993, pp. 13 and 6, respectively.

19 Mali's eighth region, Kidal, was recently created to address the demands of the Tuareg in the extreme north and along the Niger border.

20 Imperato, op. cit. p. 53.

21 Campinas, op. cit. pp. 80–1.

22 ‘Pas de tension politique sterile PSP-USRDA’, in Verité (Bamako), 2 December 1991, pp. 23. Also, Imperato, Pascal James, Historical Dictionary of Mali (Metuchen, NJ, and London, 1986 edn.), pp. 223–4.

23 Aurore (Bamako), 22 August 1991, p. 2, ‘Besides these organisations, the vast majority of the others are nothing but groups based on clan, region, or special interests’.

24 Personal interview in Bamako, , May 1992, with the R.D.T.'s leader in the assemblee nationale.

25 For example, even a tiny party composed of a small group of intellectuals, the Parti écologiste pour intégration (P.E.I.), which might be more appropriately classified as a n environmental interest group, was able to win 6 of the 751 council seats (one in each of six municipalities) under the system of proportional representation.

26 All election data presented in this article are based on, or calculated from, official computerised election statistics produced by the Direction national de l'administration territorial, Bamako, 1992.

27 Ordinance No. 91–074/P/CPSP, dated 18 September 1991.

28 While the ballot papers included the party symbols, they were printed in black and white rather than in colour because of the costs involved, and this meant that some of the symbols, especially those of the C.N.I.D., were not clear. Although the promised changes were not implemented, much to the chagrin of many parties, the situation was rectified for the presidential elections when the coloured ballot papers were paid for by France.

29 For a more detailed assessment of the impact of proportionality as opposed to the majority system, see Vengroff, ‘Political Parties and the Party System in Mali’.

30 See Vengroff, ‘The Impact of the Electoral System on the Transition to Democracy in Africa’, and Bakary Tessery, ‘The National Assembly’, in Vengroff et al., loc. cit. section v.

31 L'Essor (Bamako), 19 April 1993, p. 3.

32 Charlick, op. cit.

33 Personal communication from P.S.P. députés, confirmed and reinforced by others from several parties.

34 The announced three-year delay in opening a new university, increasing student scholarships, and raising (long-overdue) the pay of government functionaries will directly affect two of Mali's most salient groups and undoubtedly lead to trouble.

* Dean, Division of International Affairs, and Professor of Political Science, University of Connecticut, Storrs. The research in Mali on which this article is based was funded through Associates in Rural Development under contract with the Africa Bureau of U.S. A.I.D.

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