Focus on Electoral Politics & Elections – Part IV

The month of June will focus on Electoral Process, Elections, and Election Politics.  The Arab Awakening has prompted a series of new elections in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya–as well as the renewed discussion of electoral process in others.  Last year the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia voted on whether or not women may vote in the future.  In other parts of the world, like in PITAPOLICY’s home country, the USA, 2012 elections dominate the headlines as both presidential candidates rally around parties and Congressional elections organize their primaries. 

On a whole, lessons learned will be shared as pita-consumers compare and contrast election, voter, and party experiences.  Therefore, this week PITAPOLICY will revisit a presentation that Nobel Laureate in Economics at the University of Chicago, Dr. Roger Meyerson,  shared at the World Bank MENA Forum on March 14th.  (With his permission, Dr. Meyerson kindly encouraged PITAPOLICY to post his presentation.)  Meyerson undertook a comparative analysis between Pakistan’s electoral politics and those of Egypt.  He acutely applied game theory concepts to showcase how devolution of power goes back to how empowered local organizing councils and communities are allowed to operate while bigger candidates focus on national politics.  The first half reviews Pakistan as a case study and ends with: “Will local democracy take hold in Egypt?” Part II will pick up from this question next week. 

Our first post began with a discussion of Egypt and the Muslim Brotherhood by Nadia Hannout.  She described the grassroots, civic participation in organizing the Muslim Brotherhood in part one of her essay.  Two weeks ago, we reviewed how a political campaign in the US shares similar moments and obstacles during candidate elections in countries, like Tunisia–followed by part two.

In addition, PITAPOLICY is preparing a piece for CG News Service on US Presidential Elections and the implications for US relations with Egypt & Tunisia.  Pita-consumers: we want to hear your thoughts!  So we invite you to participate in the poll on “How US Presidential Elections Will Impact Relations with Egypt & Tunisia?“  The World Bank MENA 2012 Forum probed further into Professor Meyerson’s arguments. 

Presentation: State-building, Leadership & Local Democracy (Part 1)

By: Ali Cheema, Adnan Khan, & Roger Meyerson; Presented by Roger Meyerson at the World Bank, Washington, DC 2012

 Source: Authors
Reference:”Breaking the countercyclical pattern of local democracy in Pakistan,”, by Ali Cheema, Adnan Q. Khan, and Roger Myerson


Mechanism design theory and governments?

  1. Powerful government officials must expect greater long-run rewards (moral-hazard rents) from good service than from abuse of power.
  2. A political leader needs a reputation for reliably paying such rewards.
  3. A leader with a sure position has no incentive to reveal information about the smallest rents for he could deliver good public service.
  4. Competition among experienced rivals for office can motivate them to reveal more rent-reducing information.
  5. Hence democracy should increase public welfare.
  6. But democratic competition could fail to reduce political profits if there are no alternative candidates with reputations for good governance (my QJPS ’06).
  7. Successful democracy depends on a plentiful supply of politicians who have good reputations for responsible democratic leadership.
  8. Local democracy creates more opportunities to build such reputations, lowers barriers to entry in politics…

The countercyclical history of local democracy in Pakistan

  1. Three times in Pakistan’s history, institutions of local democracy have been created by military regimes, under Generals Ayub Khan (1959), Zia ul-Haq (1979), Pervez Musharraf (2001).
  2. Each time, these local institutions were later suspended by civilian governments after democracy was restored at the national and provincial levels.
  3. Most recently, Musharraf’s elected local councils were dissolved and replaced by provincial bureaucrats in 2009 (just before the disastrous floods of Jan 2010).
  4. In the military-sponsored local-government reforms, political parties were excluded from any role in sponsoring candidates for local elections.
  5. Civilian rulers failed to maintain any democratic local government system.
  6. This disconnection between political parties and local democracy has weakened the foundations of democracy in Pakistan.


Local democracy and the supply of reputations for public service

  1. A simple count of the number of elected officials illustrates the importance of local government in strengthening the national democratic system.
  2. Voters in Pakistan elect about 1100 representatives to national and provincial assemblies. Local councils added over 70,000 popularly elected representatives.
  3. In a strong democratic system, outstanding achievements in local government can open a path for local leaders to compete for higher political offices.
  4. Such paths are closed when democratic local government is suspended, which thus raises barriers against new entry into provincial and federal politics.
  5. Under democracy, representatives in the national and provincial assemblies see elected officials of local government as competitors for power and patronage.
  6. Thus, institutions of elected local democracy have withered when civilian democratic governments were restored at the provincial and federal levels.


Disconnection from local politics has weakened democracy

  1. The democratic parties’ disconnection from local government has created local political vacuums that have been repeatedly exploited by nondemocratic forces.
  2. To counter popular support of democratic parties, military regimes could build an alternative base of support by patronizing new locally elected politicians.
  3. As later military rulers confronted more developed party politics, elected local officials were given progressively greater authority under the later rounds.
  4. The detachment of democratic parties from local politics has had particularly disastrous consequences in the Tribal Areas, where local democracy has never been introduced and colonial modes of governance have continued till now.
  5. The long neglect of democratic and legal rights in the Tribal Areas has set the stage for militant insurgency, with profound regional consequences.
  6. Military gains against insurgents in Tribal Areas can be consolidated only by building responsible local government there.
  7. But it is hard to see how this can happen when local democracy has been suspended in the rest of the country.
 Notes: Part 2 will be posted next week and conclude the Electoral Politics Series for June.

“Local government system for Punjab” DFID-TAMA Policy Proposals (2010)

These notes:

More information from United Cities and Local Governments:


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