Political Parties Have Important Role to Play in Democratic Societies

Sep 19, 2017

Participants at the Pacific Regional Dialogue on Political Parties at Momi Bay, Fiji. (Photo: UNDP/Jone Raqauqau)

Nadi, Fiji — The success of a democracy is measured in the everyday interactions between political institutions and the citizens they represent. Therefore, the participation of citizens in political parties offers unique opportunities for people to participate in a process that affects their lives.

More than 40 participants representing different political parties and electoral management bodies from 9 countries in the Pacific are currently gathered in Nadi for the inaugural Regional Pacific Party Dialogue organised by the United Nations Development Programme’s (UNDP) Pacific Office in Fiji in partnership with The Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung (KAS) with funding support from the Governments of Australia and New Zealand.   

“Political Parties have an important role to play in effective democracy,” said UNDP Pacific Office in Fiji Country Director and Head of Pacific Regional Policy and Programme, Bakhodir Burkhanov.

“Traditionally, UNDP has supported parliaments and electoral management bodies as two key political institutions. However, in recent years, UNDP has started to acknowledge that there is a need to support the development of a third political institution – political parties,” said Burkhanov. 

“Political parties are a conduit between citizens and civil society and the decision-making bodies such as Government and Parliament. 

He added, “Effective political parties establish and maintain a network of branches and links to all parts of society to enable them to communicate and listen to the needs of citizens.” 

Circumstances vary in each country with a party-based electoral system, and political parties in the Pacific region also vary in some shape or form in most countries. 

For example, in Melanesia, the political party scene in several countries is fragmented with a growing number of parties contesting elections. This has resulted in the development of legislation to attempt to regulate the proliferation of parties and to ensure they meet certain standards before being able to register and contest elections.

Stressing some basic principles political parties should aspire to, Burkhanov highlighted the need for “political parties to be more than just a temporary vehicle for the promotion of the interests of one political leader or a small group.” 

“Parties need to have a vision and ideas that lift them above self-interest and short-term financial gains. Parties must be a permanent, broad and inclusive network that looks to the long-term, national interests of a country,” said Burkhanov.

Highlighting the value of a regional dialogue on political parties, Beatrice Gorawantschy, Director Regional Programme Australia and Pacific for Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung - a political foundation from the Federal Republic of Germany said, “political parties and democracy are inseparable.”

“A regional dialogue on political parties in the south pacific will further contribute to the development and stabilization of democracy, its fundamental values, processes and institutions”, added Gorawantschy. 

The two-day regional dialogue currently hosts political party and electoral management body representatives from the Cook Islands, Fiji, Kiribati, Papua New Guinea, Republic of the Marshall Islands, Solomon Islands, Samoa, Tonga and Vanuatu.   

The overall aim of the dialogue is to deepen the collective understanding of the democratic space in the Pacific.

Contact information

Jone Tuiipelehaki Raqauqau, Communications Associate – Effective Governance, E: jone.raqauqau@undp.org, M: (679) 9936 744

Setaita Tavanabola, Communications and Knowledge Management Associate – UNDP Pacific Office in Fiji, E: setaita.tavanabola@undp.org, P: (679) 3227 541 or M: (679) 9468 748 

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