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What types of party systems emerge in democracies? Why do some countries have few national parties while others have a large number of parties? These are some questions that have puzzled scholars and students of party politics. In Building Party Systems , Allen Hicken tackles these questions head-on by filling the gap in our theoretical understanding, testing empirically his proposed theory with a cross-national sample and then illuminating us on how the theory works out in two interesting case studies.

Seminal works, from Lipset and Rokkan's to Duverger's and Chibber and Kollman's, have attempted to explain why political parties and party systems across the world look the way they do. Extant explanations have focused on both the importance of sociological determinants and, more currently, on institutional determinants. Sociological explanation Skip to main content. Advertisement Hide.

Although the democratic credentials of these elections have been at the centre of the democratisation debate in Uganda, they were able to bring about a semblance of democratic competition at the local level but not at the national level where the strongman tendencies remained unchallenged.

Any attempts by some politicians to challenge Museveni at elections were castigated as past leaders who had caused suffering of Ugandans.


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First, Museveni had had a competitor for the presidency; Dr Kizza Besigye who challenged him from within the Movement. This followed controversy as to whether Museveni could be challenged from within the Movement. Secondly, the elections had been fought on very bitter grounds with the state unleashing violence as part of the strategy for Museveni to win elections; which he did amidst controversy. These two developments tended to divide the Movement within its ranks.

Although Museveni went to the polls with this promise, his NRM historicals had anticipated that he would leave after serving his term. Simultaneously, foreign donors had been quietly pressing Museveni for political reforms. Its major recommendation was opening for political pluralism. It noted that though the Movement had made several achievements since , it also had internal weaknesses. Such weaknesses included declining ideological commitment, increase in corrupt behaviour and lack of discipline amongst its cadres.

It was plainly pointed out that the all-inclusive nature of the Movement was providing opportunity to some opponents to undermine the Movement from within. It was therefore recommended that the Movement be reconstituted into a party, and space be opened for multiparty politics.

Building Party Systems in Developing Democracies

This position was supported with two arguments. The first move was to let the opponents of the Movement form their own organisations and leave the Movement alone. This was termed as mubaleke bagende let the opponents go. The second argument was that political pluralism was a world trend therefore, Uganda could not be exceptional.

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At that meeting two issues were brought up for debate namely; the question of opening up political space and the question of amending the constitution to remove the term limits. The argument was that the Constitution should be amended to allow Museveni to stand again. This was the beginning of what came to known as kisanja third term. In he spearheaded the campaign in referendum to open up for multipartyism. By the end of Museveni had secured his two political goals.

The Constitution had been amended to allow the President unlimited legibility. Multipartyism had been restored. Thus while his critics castigated him for being power hungry, others viewed him positively as a person who had restored competitive politics. Nevertheless, the experiences of the elections showed that little had changed in the way the Movement and Museveni treated their opponents.

Museveni and NRM were able to exploit the advantages of incumbency such as using facilities attached to the presidency for the campaign. The Electoral Commission was unable to fully follow the electoral law and was accused of favouring candidate Yoweri Museveni. Although Besigye was finally exonerated in the rape case, he had already gained poor public image and lost a lot of campaign time. Moreover, in the treason case Besigye had been granted bail so that he could campaign but a paramilitary force known as Black Mamba, invaded the court, had him re-arrested and jailed in an incident that Justice Ogoola termed as the Rape of the Pearl.

At the end of the polls, Besigye again petitioned the Supreme Court on election results. Surprisingly, a judgement similar to that of was pronounced, that although the Electoral Commission failed to follow the law on several counts, still that was not enough to annul the results.

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Therefore, while Uganda might be proud to have 33 registered political parties, the difference they can make on the quality of politics still remains questionable. The question to be posed is whether the Ugandan state and its institutions have the will to promote a new political dispensation brought about by multipartyism.

The reintroduction of multipartyism is somewhat perceived as an obstruction of that abundant political space. This may explain the post political conduct of several state institutions towards opposition political parties and their activities. While the NRM government had allowed civil society organisations to proliferate and to conduct their business freely, there has been increasing intolerance of the activities of political parties.

In the past such activities were disallowed because they were banned under the law. The irony is that the state in Uganda wants to behave in the same way it did before multipartyism was allowed. Using the colonial law of regulating assemblies, the police have been vigorously involved in violation of freedom of association and assembly.

Opposition rallies have routinely been blocked and demonstrations violently dispersed. The increasingly common excuse for prohibiting lawful assemblies is that they disrupt business in the city centre of Kampala. This justification cannot withstand considering that pro-NRM assemblies are never dispersed. Disruptions always a result of police interference in otherwise, peaceful assemblies, indiscriminately using tear gas, water cannons, batons and even live bullets on unarmed civilians.

However, the Attorney General Khiddu Makubuya countered that Police have every right to allow or prohibit public rallies arguing that it was mandatory for Ugandans to seek written permission from the Police before holding an assembly and that government was not in agreement with some of the views contained in the court judgement and would therefore challenge it. Kiiza Besigye and his supporters, who had gathered at the Constitutional Square in Kampala where FDC was supposed to launch its party cards. The party claimed that the assembly was to celebrate a recent constitutional court ruling nullifying a section of the Police Act.

Why would Police stop the rally before it had actually convened? The contradiction, however, is that in the past twenty years under the NRM government, no assembly called by the NRM organisers has ever been interrupted, banned or stopped by Police. In other words, one may infer that the Police have been targeting opposition groups. Similarly, Hon.

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Defending the actions of the Police, the Minister of Internal Affairs again argued that the MP had organised a rally without informing the Police hence there were no traffic or crowd control measures to guide the rally. The acts of the state seem to portray a picture of a regime that is not prepared to compete for power. It is more disturbing given the fact that the Constitutional Court has pronounced itself on this matter and above all, the country is now governed under a multiparty political system.

The question that arises is: what has caused his change of heart? Who else should win in this country? Do you see me as somebody who is about to collapse?


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  • He had confirmed earlier that he would run for a fourth term of office. I saw people knocking themselves over leadership when I am still around. I said these are going to kutomeza crash the revolution ushered in by the NRM. Tutandikirawo we start immediately and by the time my army comes to assist I would already be handling the enemy There is no doubt about that.

    You are not on our side politically—out. The problem however is that both within the NRM and in the opposition alternative strong leaders have not emerged. In the opposition ranks confusion is rife. In the NRM corruption is rampant. These two weaknesses leave Museveni without a strong contender for his seat. Some opinions have tended to suggest that Museveni is grooming his own son to take over power.

    Those faces whether they are the same or different they are elected by the population. Therefore, emerging parties have an uphill task in trying to contest for power. All kinds of road blocks may be laid in their way that they sometimes appear as if they are legitimising the rule of the dominant party. Nevertheless, experience has shown that the contradictions within the ruling elite could give some advantages to the opposition parties if they were well organised.

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    For the political ground to be level, the opposition parties will need to press for more transparency in public funding, electoral reforms, and change in the attitudes of some of the state institution. On the one hand, political parties especially on the opposition are so highly constrained financially that they cannot effectively implement their programmes. On the other hand, parties have been accused of corruption and lack of transparency in their financial transactions. Ruling parties particularly are accused of unfairly using state resources to advance their political agenda.

    The debate therefore has dwelt on whether public funding may facilitate the operations of political parties by increasing their democratic and accountability credentials. Some theorists of political parties posit that the funding of political parties generally takes two major perspectives. In this model, parties are corrupt because they are by definition, part of the struggle of oligarchic elites that hijack democratic institutions and perpetuate the capitalist system. But money should not be allowed to buy access to decision-making.

    The issue of money in politics is complicated due to a number of reasons. Firstly, under-funded political parties are not likely to compete effectively in the political game and are unlikely to nurture the growth of democracy.

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    Building Democracy: National and International Factors

    Secondly, ruling parties are likely to use their influence to solicit much more financial resources than the opposition parties. Thirdly, opposition parties are likely to illicitly solicit resources from sources restricted by the law. In addition, most parties, whether in government or opposition are tempted to conceal their sources of funding, which is dangerous to both democracy and the security of the state. This will create equal opportunities for all contending parties to access public power. Excessive inequality in financing of parties is likely to favour certain parties and candidates over others.

    In most countries, for both presidential and parliamentary election campaigns, candidates rely heavily on the media; mainly the television and radio for political marketing. For this reason, political parties are under heavy pressure to raise large amounts of money, irrespective of its origin. However, most parties especially on the opposition are seriously constrained financially. Because of weak laws, the people in government tend to misuse their stay in power to finance their party activities.