Parliaments and political parties

Support to political parties is perhaps the most difficult, and most criticized, form of democracy promotion. Despite this, there is relatively little research identifying how it might be made more effective. This policy paper draws on the body of practice accumulated by UK political parties, through programmes funded via the Westminster Foundation for Democracy, to help fill that gap. It examines what their distinctive approach to political party strengthening contributes to democracy promotion and identifies where these approaches work best.

Legislatures are central to modern democratic politics, holding governments to account, and scrutinising legislation in order to generate more effective public policy. Yet during moments of crisis, legislatures are often bypassed as presidents and prime ministers prioritise a rapid response. The concern that legislatures will be marginalised, with greater power concentrated in the hands of the executive, has been particularly significant during COVID-19, when eighty countries have witnessed democratic backsliding.

Parliaments are likely to play a crucial role when states transition from war towards peace. Yet this role is often overlooked and very little research exists on the role of parliaments in peace processes and peacebuilding. Parliaments are an important arena for the inclusion of warring parties, and the resulting interactions could either aid or hinder the consolidation of peace. Former enemies, or their elected representatives, are expected to meet and even work together in post-conflict parliaments.