Attempts to build better governance and more accountable states cannot ignore the key role of political parties. Donor support for governance and accountability has, traditionally, focused on demand and supply-side institutions inside and outside of government, including line ministries and civil society. Political parties are often sidelined, reflecting concerns about political sensitivities. At times, it is true that political parties themselves have been the ‘weakest link’, reinforcing patronage or the centralisation of power. There is, however, increasing recognition of their importance, not just during elections, but in relation to a wide range of governance and accountability processes.
There is scope for donor agencies to support political parties, but this needs to go beyond technocratic solutions and build stronger links between development and diplomacy.