Nigerian Journal of Legislative Affairs

Year : 2013-12-02

Year: 2013-12-02

Volume: 5

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The debate on the extent to which incumbency factor has positively influenced the electoral fortunes of running political parties in Africa has gained currency in the literature. This paper is part of the debate. Using Nigeria as a case study, the paper examined the relationship between incumbency factor and electoral victory by ruling political parties. It predominantly utilized secondary data and adopted the theory of incumbency advantage as analytical framework. Findings shows that political parties that won elections during transition period in Nigeria never lost power through elections. Rather their hold on control of power increased with each election. This is located in the fact that Nigeria belongs to the groups of countries categorized as partially free societies where dispersed, weak and ineffective opposition characterized multi-party democracies culminating in the prevalence and dominance of ruling party. This however does not obtain in the legislature due to geopolitical variables that result in high turnover. The paper projects that with the current political development that are part of the ongoing third wave of democracy, many autocratic democracies and partially free societies, including Nigeria are increasingly transiting to liberal democracies where elections will be genuinely competitive.

Legislative oversight is nowhere more important than over the budget. The role of the Legislature in most countries is to scrutinized and authorize government revenues and expenditures, and to ensure that the national budget is properly implemented. The evolution of legislative power of the purse dates back to medieval times; since that time, this power has been played by legislature around the world as a means to expand their democratic leverage on behalf of the citizens. There is great variation, however, in the nature and effects of legislature engagement. Some legislatures effectively write the budget; others tend to approve executive budget proposals without changes. In some, most of the debate takes place in plenary, on the floor of the house; elsewhere, the emphasis now is review in committees, a powerful central budget committee and/or by several sector committees. Some legislatures put greater emphasis on ex-ante review (and often amended) of budget proposals, while others place more emphasis on ex-post oversight of actual spending. In this paper, we examined all this issues and conclude by noting a convergence of systems, with many legislatures now strengthening their ex-ante and ex-post involvement in the budget process.

Representation lies at the heart of modern democracy as a core function of parliaments, along with legislation and oversight. Parliament has become essential in a country’s national life for connecting to the government; diverse interest groups, emerging participatory institutions, and individual Citizens. Following a brief survey of the classic debate in which representatives are either delegates of constituents or given a trusteeship by constituents, it outlines a more complex version of contemporary representation that involves complex relationships with diverse constituencies. It considers the politics of presence or equitable representation of all interest. In a society. Development of two –way outreach programs between the parliament and constituencies; stakeholders in representation from MPs and staffers to CSOs, interest groups and parliamentary monitoring organizations; representation as a form of social accountability; and representative as multiple forms of constituency service. It develops the perspective that parliamentary representation provides the central glue binding other core parliamentary functions.

The purpose of this paper is twofold. First of all, it aims to show that effective oversight is a key determinant of government accountability which, in its turn, is a key determinant of the quality of a democratic regime and, ultimately, of a regime’s ability to service, the second, and related, purpose is to show which factors are responsible for the effectiveness with which legislators and legislatures performs their oversight functions. In doing so, the paper suggest that political will is perhaps the single most important, determinant of oversight effectiveness.

Increasingly, Parliaments are challenged to manage their own affairs, free from the restrictions imposed upon them by the executive arm of the state. Distinct from the Private corporate world and the government public sector, parliaments are entities created by the human resolve for self-determination, shaped by culture and history, and driven uniquely by the will of the people, Parliaments, by their very nature as "Houses of the People", elicit very stringent calls for robust management structures and systems. Good corporate management plays a key role in serving the public interest; it ensures that parliamentarians are well supported in fulfilling their constitutional responsibilities, legislating and overseeing.

Democratic countries have established systems, procedures and mechanisms to promote the accountability of public officials to citizens; these accountability tools and process both impose restraints on the power and authority of public officials and create incentives for accepted behaviours and actions. Accountability exists when there is a relationship where an individual or institution, and the performance of tasks or functions by that individual or institution, are subject to another oversight, direction or request that they provide information or justification for their actions. Broadly speaking, there are four principal forms of accountability: horizontal, vertical and diagonal, with a fourth type, social being a particular case of diagonal accountability. However, there are conflicting definitions of what each of these types of accountability are, resulting in difficulty in applying the concepts of accountability to practical governance issues. One reason for this is that the notion of accountability means different things in different political concepts. Thus, accountability mechanisms which are appropriate and effective in parliamentary systems may be inappropriate and less effective in presidential or semi presidential systems.

This chapter outlines the different approaches in evaluating the performance of parliament ranging from highlighting the self-assessment aspect to establishing minimum criteria. It argues that the diagnosis of strengths and weaknesses and the establishment of development priorities is a process that belongs to Parliament itself with inputs from civil society and with assistance where necessary from the donor community. Variation in the use of various benchmarks and assessment frameworks is unavoidable given the differences that exist across legislatures in terms of their institutional development and powers. The chapter includes by arguing that consideration should be given to establishing Nigerian parliamentary benchmarks or minimum standards for legislatures within the economic community of West African States (ECOWAS).

As policy making has become increasingly technical and complex, contemporary government has come to depend extensively on research and information from highly qualified experts, and this has created a challenge for Democratic parliaments. This chapter provides a brief outline of how legislatures develop and employ the capacity to conduct research that contributes to good policy making. It establishes that it is essential that legislatures develop their own capacity for research, shows how Policy research differ from purely academic research, and describes how legislative researchers become information brokers who navigate between the worlds of purely scientific research and policy making. It outlines options for organizing research capacity in Parliaments, and concludes with the standard method of policy analysis employed in legislative research. The arguments developed in this chapter especially pertain to systems with bicameral legislative systems, separation of powers systems, and where parliamentary oversight of the executive is an important constitutional element in governance.

  • Ladi Hamalai

  • Rick Stapenhurst

  • Mark Baskin

  • Ricardo Pelizzo

  • Paul Belisle

  • Anthony Staddon