How do parliaments shape democracy (and democracies shape parliaments)?



Democracy and democracy-strengthening are always a work in progress, according to the Westminster Foundation for Democracy’s Graeme Ramshaw and Alex Stevenson.  It’s time for those involved in this work to have an open conversation about what works best, they write for Open Democracy.

Victoria Hasson, WFD’s Parliamentary Adviser, spends most of her time assessing parliaments in developing countries as well as countries making the transition towards democracy. She begins the conversation with an assessment of parliament’s relationship with the biggest democratic trends seen in 2016:

This is not as straightforward as you might think. The big pattern she detects is one of context. When a democracy is establishing itself, Victoria finds, the parliament is often defined in response to a presidential system, or to the need for a particular area like oversight, or simply in response to pressing calls for more democracy. The ‘rules of the game’ are yet to be established in these parliaments, so the struggle over their final status is not yet resolved. Established parliaments face their own challenges, including the need to sell their work to an uninterested electorate.

second article, by Mikhail Minakov of the Kyiv-Mohyla Academy, focuses on the Russian neighbourhood – a region with very differing kinds of democracies:

There the tendency towards a presidential authoritarian system is very strong. So, too, though, is the tension between this approach and democratic parliamentarism. Mikhail outlines the experience of the post-Soviet republics and explains why one particular country’s prospects really matters in the years to come.


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