Accountable Government in Africa218
thus do not provide ertile grounds or inculcating principles o representationand accountability into their members.In theory, political parties in multiparty democracies are important vehiclesor political representation, political competition and democratic accountability.Teir contributions range rom linking the state and civil society, ormulatingpublic policy, engaging in political recruitment, structuring electoral choicesand acilitating coalitions. Unortunately, in most Arican democracies, politicalparties remain weak and poorly institutionalised despite having embraced andsupposedly practised multiparty democracy or over two decades.Lawson & Rakner (2005) have analysed how certain institutions o accountability operate in anzania and the extent to which they inuence thequality and eectiveness o public policy. Amongst a range o institutions — suchas local associations, traditional authorities, NGOs and religious bodies —opposition parties ranked lower on the list, whereas religious bodies emerged asthe most eective. Tis pattern would not dier greatly in Malawi.Generally in Arica, opposition parties are severely discredited, suer romnegative public opinion and are not seen as a viable alternative by the electorate(Olukoshi 1998). Ruling parties oen resort to strategies o obstruction,harassment and division in order to weaken the opposition and are highly reluctant and resistant to accommodate dissent and diversity. Tis is true notonly where the transition to multiparty democracy ailed to bring about a changeo government, but also in other transition scenarios. Generally, there is no levelplaying feld in Arican politics and opposition parties lack unding, knowledgeand skills, which tends to weaken them to the point o ineectiveness.In the Arican context generally and in Malawi in particular, both horizontaland vertical accountability mechanisms are weak due to a political culture thatis characterised by an overwhelmingly powerul State President. Oppositionparties have only limited space in which to perorm their rightul role o holdingthe government to account. Teir role is urther weakened by a lack o intra-party democracy and leadership tussles. Weak vertical accountability relationships inturn undermine the level o public trust in elected ocials. Against this generalbackground, Malawian party politics since 1994 has ollowed an interestingtrajectory, rom relative stability to ragmentation and signs o emerging one-party dominance. Tis chapter describes this trajectory and analyses how it hasinuenced accountable governance in Malawi.
3. 1994–2004: From relative stability to fragmentation
3.1. The emergence of opposition parties in Malawi
Until 1993, the Malawi Congress Party (MCP) was the only ocially registeredpolitical party in Malawi. Te national reerendum held on 14 June 1993