[Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro] possesses, however, few of his predecessor’s resources, lacking not just oil revenue but Chávez’s surplus of charisma, humour and political skill. Maduro, unable to end the crisis, has increasingly sided with the privileged classes against the masses; his security forces are regularly dispatched into barrios to repress militants under the guise of fighting crime. Having lost its majority in Congress, the government, fearing it can’t win at the polls the way Chávez did, cancelled gubernatorial elections that had been set for December last year (though they now appear to be on again). Maduro has convened an assembly to write a new constitution, supposedly with the objective of institutionalising the power of social movements, though it is unlikely to lessen the country’s polarisation.
CALL FOR PAPERS
Political parties and the party system in South Africa: the interface between law and politics
Political parties are essential parts of any democratic political system. They are the vehicles through which citizens are able to compete together for power; they make a political system legitimate; they allow citizens to be represented in the state; they facilitate a degree of responsiveness and accountability; they are instruments for the recruitment of political leaders; and they act as mechanisms of political communication and education. By creating coalitions within a society, they also promote social cohesion.
The benign potential of political parties is rarely fully realized, however. Parties are often involved in political intimidation, corruption, the politicization of state institutions, the manipulation of racial and ethnic antagonisms, and the pursuit of short-term partisan advantage at the expense of the longer term interests of citizens, future generations, and the environment.
South African activists have mostly maintained the position that parties should be open, transparent and accountable. In particular, information about how parties are financed is necessary if citizens are to make informed decisions about the political parties they choose to support. Constitutional lawyers too, are quick to point to the principles that have been advanced by the Constitutional Court in defending the kind of society imagined by the Constitution. However, political scientists have frequently warned of the dangers posed by the unintended consequences of political party regulation, often sought by those who intend to protect the Constitution.
The potentially benign and malign potentials of political parties and party systems have legal, political and sociological dimensions. These can only be understood by means of interdisciplinary study and deliberation, involving dialogue between specialists in the organisational and political aspects of democratic systems, scholars of the legal and constitutional factors that shape political party operations, party political strategists, and social justice activists.
The Department of Political Studies at the University of Cape Town and the UCT School of Law, in collaboration with civil society group, My Vote Counts, would like to stimulate such a dialogue. They therefore intend to hold a conference in Cape Town on the theme “Political parties in South Africa: Legal and political considerations” on August 27 and 28 2015.
Suggestions for papers and panel themes are welcomed. These will include but not be limited to the following issues and questions:
The organisers welcome those interested in presenting a paper at this noteworthy conference to submit abstracts to Prof. Anthony Butler firstname.lastname@example.org or Prof. Pierre De Vos email@example.com. Abstracts should be no longer than 500 words in length and must be submitted by 27 March 2015. We plan to seek publication of these papers in a book or special journal edition.
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