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Multi-Party Political Systems

Strengthening the ability of parties to develop and present issue-based platforms and represent citizens.

Why Our Work Matters

A stable democracy fundamentally rests on the ability of individuals and groups to express their opinions and compete in the political process. A strong multi-party political system ensures people, with a variety of like opinions, can join together to advocate for issues and communicate their views to their governments. Multi-party systems, that are balanced and competitive, also help channel civic discontent into constructive policy debate and change, helping to avoid the violence that can sometimes plague non-democratic countries.

Through our work strengthening multi-party political systems, parties become more issue-based and responsive to citizens needs and concerns, they become more inclusive of marginalized groups including women and youth, and they serve as a bridge between the people and their governments.

What Our Work Does

To strengthen multi-party political systems and enable parties to compete in elections on a level playing field, we work with political parties across the spectrum to help them:

  • Develop issue-based platforms and policies that address citizens’ concerns;
  • Become more inclusive of marginalized groups, including women and youth; and
  • Establish processes to democratically elect party leaders.

Develop Issue-Based Platforms
Parties, dependent on the charisma of a specific person, often rise quickly and gain popularity rapidly, however, they often do not focus on understanding the concerns of citizens and representing their interests in government institutions.  To help parties focus on addressing citizens’ needs and concerns, we use proven tools, such as public opinion research, to help parties understand the priorities of voters and develop policies that will lead to sustainable solutions.

Through candidate consultations and working with newly-elected members of congress in Mexico, our Constituent Outreach Training Initiative helped parties’ develop issue-based campaign platforms and talk about those platforms to voters.  Our work also helped members establish district offices so they remain connected to the people they represent.

Increase Recruitment of Marginalized Groups
Successful political parties reflect the societies they represent and are inclusive of marginalized groups.  Through our global efforts such as the Women’s Democracy Network and Generation Democracy and our country-based programs, we support the inclusion of groups who traditionally have been excluded from participating in party politics, including women, youth, minorities and people with disabilities. 

In Kenya, we have engaged civil society groups representing people with disabilities (PWD) and county elected officials to ensure that the views and concerns of PWDs are incorporated into decision-making processes.  In Mombasa County, we helped PWDs form a caucus to ensure constant engagement with the county assembly and to promote the inclusion of PWD priority needs into county legislation.

Strengthen Internal Party Democracy
It is extremely difficult for democracies to succeed when core building blocks, such as political parties, do not operate in a democratic fashion.  When parties are democratically governed, they serve as important socializing mechanisms that teach future government leaders important skills of negotiation and compromise.  To help parties become more transparent and democratic in their decision making, we work with party leaders and the party rank-and-file to open space inside the organization for divergent opinions to be heard and for new leaders to rise to the top, thus renewing and re-energizing parties for new generations of voters.

In Bulgaria and Slovakia, we used public-opinion research data to show that candidates and leaders who emerge from internal competition often make stronger candidates in parliamentary elections.  In both cases, parties instituted a form of internal primary elections that opened the candidate-selection process to rank-and-file party members.  The primaries created an increased sense of ownership in the process and allowed party members to have an impact on the placement of candidates on party lists – a decision that was traditionally made by a small group of people in party leadership.

Our Innovative Approach

International Volunteers Provide a Diverse Perspective

We recognize that there are many different forms of democracy and countries will adopt and adapt democratic methods and forms to fit their unique historical experiences and culture. For this reason, we impart global experiences and knowledge by sharing skills and experience from around the world.

Many of our volunteers are themselves activists who benefited from IRI programs in their countries in the 1990s. By closely matching the needs of our partners with these activists who have gone through similar democratic transitions, we ensure that parties have a variety of experiences and best practices to learn from.

Monitoring and Evaluation Strengthens Our Programs

IRI also understands that party development is a long-term process for which campaigns and elections are only one type of milestone. For this reason, our approach to monitoring and evaluating focuses on short-term results – how our support is immediately used by to increase a parties’ ability to participate in the political process – as well as evidence of long-term, sustainable changes in the ways that parties contribute to a free, competitive exchange of ideas that can be linked to our work.

To do this, we use creative yet rigorous data collection methods, including both qualitative (interviews, observation, focus groups) and quantitative (surveys, public opinion polls, scorecards/checklists).

The generous support of individuals and corporations enable IRI staff and volunteers to carry out its mission around the world. With your help, IRI will continue its mission of hope for decades to come.

IRI is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization. Contributions are tax deductible

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