Power sharing and transitional goverment
public discussions on the future of their country to begin. The wartime leaders participating
in government may lack grassroots support and be seen as competing to share the spoils of
power rather than moving the country toward reconstruction and reconciliation. Also, because
leaders are guaranteed representation in power-sharing governments, they have few incentives
to engage their constituencies in discussions on the future of the country. As a result, lack of
public participation combined with the squabbles of a stagnating power-sharing government
run the risk of disillusioning the population and leading to its disengagement from the peace
Burundi’s transitional process provides an example of this challenge. The power-sharing
government was the result of elite negotiations, and the participants in talks were those who
had the capacity to carry out violent acts and did not necessarily command respect or have
genuine public following. In the eyes of the public, the transitional government was about elites
dividing the spoils of government. Overall, the transitional process was disconnected from the
local population: ‘elite power-sharing did not strengthen the relationship between leaders and
citizenry’ (Curtis, 2007, 191).
A similar phenomenon occurred in Nepal’s transitional process, where until early 2007 the
process focused on building elite consensus at the expense of wide political debate or public
consultation. Significantly, there were no institutional structures to channel and process the
results of public consultations (ICG, February 2007, i–ii). The committee charged with drafting
the interim constitution consisted initially of six men and did not include women, dalits or any
minority ethnic members. The committee’s enlargement following public criticism did not
change its domination by the main political parties and the Maoists (ICG, February 2007, 6).
As a result, observers note that the lack of communication and consultation aggravated public
frustration (ICG, December 2007, 12).
The second and related argument in favour of expanded political participation is that new
political groups get organised in the transitional period, and demand representation, refusing
to wait for elections to be held. These opposition groups know that important decisions with
long-term implications are being taken in the transitional period and want to have a say in them.
Even if power-sharing governments represented the key political and military groups at the
beginning of the transition, they may lose popular support to new political organisations. Should
the demands of these groups not be heard, due to a closed, non-transparent transitional
process, there is an increased risk of violence.
Nepal came close to realising this unfortunate scenario in early 2007, when three weeks of
violent protests in the country’s south left two dozen people dead. The power-sharing deal
between the mainstream political parties and the Maoists was based on the assumption that
they represented most Nepalis. However, the protests of early 2007 demonstrated that the
mainstream parties and the Maoists were actually not fully representative of society (ICG,
December 2007, 3). Demonstrators protested that the new interim constitution did not correct
the domination of ‘hill’ Nepalis, and continued to reinforce age-old patterns of discrimination.
7 For them, ‘the “New Nepal” that politicians had promised looked suspiciously like the old one
that was meant to have been consigned to history’ (Chalmers, 2007, 161). Ultimately, the
interim constitution was amended and the government and the Maoists managed to maintain a
The third reason for expanding political participation in the transitional period is because power-
sharing arrangements tend to prevent the emergence of new political leaders. As Chalmers
writes about Nepal, ‘the mainstream parties were relieved that, for all the drama of the April
2006 mass movement, it did not generate any new leaders, nor has it yet forced them to
find new ways of conducting politics’ (Chalmers, 2007, 167). However, this is detrimental to
peace-making and peace-building efforts: when elites with interests in wartime structures retain
power, they resist the processes of demilitarising and democratising politics. New political
leaders need to emerge gradually, with interests not linked to wartime legacies so that they
can deliver different messages and build political constituencies based on different interest
structures. Change can rarely be delivered through those who benefit from the status quo.
Finally, a fourth reason for third parties to encourage power-sharing governments to open
up the political space is that only such inclusive discussions can pave the way for long-
lasting institutions which will accommodate diverse interests in a common state. This issue is
discussed in the next section.
Expansion of political participation in the absence of election is an extremely difficult and
potentially destabilising undertaking, for two main reasons. The first difficulty is that power-
sharing governments are not eager to create avenues for wide political participation, which
allows opposition groups to influence decisions. Incorporating new views and interests in the
political process disturbs the delicate balance of power negotiated in the peace agreement.
The second difficulty is related to the question of who decides, in the absence of elections,
what groups are to be included in the transitional political process and through what
Some practitioners and academics argue that inclusive political processes should begin only
after state institutions have been rebuilt and the rule of law established. Political inclusion in the
early stages of the transition, very much like pre-mature elections, can be destabilising. Political
parties are newly created and have not yet built strong ties with their constituencies, state
institutions are weak and cannot channel popular demands effectively, and the media are not
moderate enough to report dispassionately on divisive discussions. Threatened elites eager to
protect their positions and interests are tempted to use manipulative rhetoric to stoke fear and
insecurity among the people, or to mobilise them against their opponents. 8
However, this paper argues, political processes gradually expanded beyond those who
sign peace agreements can prepare the ground for elections and contribute to lasting state
institutions. Lengthy deliberation and gradual expansion of political participation before political
competition moves to the ballot box, and before long-term constitutions are adopted, are more
likely to lead to accepted electoral results and constitutions.
There is a very important role for third parties in the effort to expand political participation.
Third parties need to advocate for wider participation because the members of power-sharing
governments often have no interest in such efforts. The National Transitional Government of
Liberia (NTGL) inaugurated in October 2003 demonstrates the attitudes of power-sharing elites.
One rebel politician summarised the character of the NTGL as follows: ‘this is an administration
for warring factions. They control the government. People need to accept this reality. Civilians
have no role in the cabinet, they are virtually voiceless’ (ICG, January 2004, 13). Due to the lack
of accountability mechanisms during the transitional period, the members of the NTGL devoted
more attention to the division of the spoils of the state than to making and implementing public
In Nepal, also, observers noted in 2007 that ‘party leaders have shown little appetite for
pluralism: the interim legislature will have no official opposition, royalist parties may be excluded
from the Constituent Assembly and new parties will find it hard to register for elections’ (ICG,
February 2007, i–ii). Also, in Somalia, most of the national reconciliation conferences convened
since 1991 focused on hammering out power-sharing agreements for transitional central
governments. In some of the conferences the agenda was reduced to the allocation of cabinet
positions by clans and factions in typical sharing-the-spoils exercises (Menkhaus, 2007).
It is argued here that it is possible to compensate for the elite character of transitional power
sharing by combining it with various forms of wider political participation. The political process
can provide for inclusive decision-making mechanisms, such as joint commissions and working
groups, mandated to work on various aspects of the transition: electoral laws and constitutional
issues, rules governing the vetting of state institutions, the creation of a unified army and police,
and the reform of public administration. In Mozambique, for example, negotiation and planning
continued after the signing of the Rome Accord. Joint decision-making bodies such as the
Supervisory and Monitoring Commission and the Cease-Fire Commission gathered the key
political actors and donors in a consultative process chaired by the Special Representative
of the Secretary General. Other specialised commissions dealt with reintegration of former
combatants, reform of the Mozambican defence forces and preparation for elections.
Political deliberation beyond the members of transitional governments can also take place
in non-elected bodies, such as national conferences and constitutional commissions. In
Afghanistan, for example, the Interim Government appointed by the Bonn Agreement in
2001 divided power among the most powerful elites with the exception of the Taliban. This
government was succeeded by another power-sharing government in 2002, the Transitional
9 Government, partly selected by a large gathering of hundreds of people, the Loya Jirga. Also,
the country’s constitution was drafted in the context of a wide public-participation effort.
Although marred by intimidation and manipulation, this did provide a corrective to the elite-
based, power-sharing formula.
In the absence of elections, what mechanisms should be adopted to identify the participants of
national dialogue and other public-participation efforts? How should the extent of inclusion and
participation be defined? There are no perfect answers to these questions, and external actors
can play an important role in facilitating the discussions on the eligibility criteria and decision-
making procedures of consultative mechanisms. Inevitably, public-participation efforts following
peace agreements and lengthy civil conflicts will be flawed and at least partially manipulated
by elites. Adopting transparent selection and decision-making rules may go some way to
increasing the public’s influence in the political process. Also, relying on multi-step selection
processes, led by credible national leaders and independent commissions, could be beneficial.
However, these efforts are unlikely to overcome the inherently contentious nature of expanded
political participation, and third parties should remain engaged to assist in managing these
Transitional periods, institution-building and constitutional negotiations
Constitutional discussions go to the heart of the most divisive issues facing a country: the
structure of state institutions and the long-term sharing of power within them, the rights of
minorities, and the state’s obligations toward the citizens. Experience has shown that lasting
and legitimate state institutions tend to result from lengthy deliberation among a wide range of
national elites and from meaningful public participation (Kritz, 2003; Samuels, 2006; Brandt,
2004). The constitution-making process, including who has the right to participate and how
decisions are taken, influences the content of constitutions, their legitimacy and the politics that
follows their adoption.
Experience suggests that decisions on long-term constitutional design should not be rushed
and should not be dominated by power-sharing transitional governments. If power sharing is
to be enshrined in the long-term constitution of a country, it should result from inclusive and
lengthy discussions during the transitional period. Long-term institutional arrangements should
not be included in peace agreements. By deciding long-term constitutions, peace agreements
miss the opportunity to lengthen the dialogue on constitutional options and to expand political
participation beyond those at the peace-negotiating table. The Bosnian example shows
the deficiencies of including long-term power-sharing arrangements in peace agreements.
Agreements, then, need to define the processes through which political leaders will reach
decisions on constitutional arrangements without actually defining the long-term constitutions
themselves. Ideally, agreements should also include mechanisms for wide elite consultations
and public participation in the transitional and constitutional processes. 10
There is evidence that constitution-making processes that exclude major constituencies usually
lead to contested constitutions. Iraq is a relevant example. Observers have noted that the
Iraqi constitutional discussions in the summer of 2005 were damaged by the time limitations
imposed by the US and by the insufficient inclusion of Sunni Arabs in the deliberations (Morrow,
2005). In the October 2005 referendum, 78.6% of votes were in favour of the constitution.
However, in the predominantly Sunni Arab governorates of Anbar and Salaheddin, 97% and
82% of voters respectively rejected the document. One could argue that the Sunnis would not
have accepted the emerging Shia–Kurdish federal deal, even if a more inclusive and longer
deliberation had taken place. However, observers note that the Sunni position had evolved to
understand federalism as potentially being to their benefit. Morrow argues that, in August 2005,
some leading Sunni Arab negotiators were sympathetic to certain models of Iraqi federalism,
but could not support it without raising awareness among their constituencies on what these
models entailed (Morrow, 2005). A longer process would have allowed political leaders to
discuss this with their constituencies, as well as giving time for the Constitutional Commission
to promote public awareness and education. However, this opportunity was missed.
Although experience demonstrates that constitutions adopted without extensive elite-
level consultations and public participation are unlikely to last, ‘to push for a more inclusive
process is to challenge the longstanding structure of the state’ (Chalmers, 2007, 166). Often,
‘a political elite unaccustomed to satisfying public demands will have to learn quickly to be
more responsive without just making reflexive concessions that fail to produce an overall
improvement in fairness’ (Chalmers, 2007, 166). Observers noted in late 2007 that, in Nepal,
‘no party paid more than lip service to calls for broader public participation in the constitutional
process’ (ICG, December 2007, i).
Similarly, in Burundi, real political debate on the future of Burundi and on economic and social
issues had not taken place at the end of the constitutional negotiations (ICG, December
2004, 2). The population remained poorly informed about the constitution and the upcoming
elections, and debates on power sharing, accompanied by denunciations and bitter
disagreements, created a climate of fear (ICG, December 2004, 11). The new constitution was
endorsed in a referendum in February 2005 by 92% of the voters, but ‘holding a referendum at
the end of the transitional process is not sufficient in terms of engaging the broader population
in the peace process’ (Curtis, 2007, 188).
Based on the above, the role of third parties in encouraging consultations with elites outside the
power-sharing government and emphasising the importance of public participation is crucial.
Of course, these decisions cannot and should not be imposed by external actors. However,
there is an important role in advocating for wide participation in constitutional discussion and in
mediating between the resistance of power-sharing governments to grant it, and the impatience
of excluded groups.
This paper has argued for the continued political engagement of third parties following the
signing of peace agreements and during the particularly volatile transitional periods. It has
argued that third parties should see transitional power-sharing governments as vehicles for
continuing the peace talks and has pointed out that many issues remain unresolved when
agreements are signed. It has furthermore argued that it is unrealistic to expect power-sharing
transitional governments led by wartime elites to put in place the foundations for stable
electoral politics and long-lasting state institutions without consulting with other elites and
without at some point including the public. Narrow coalitions will inevitably meet resistance
from the wider population and new opposition groups.
For transition to lay the foundations for stability and pluralist political competition, power-
sharing elites need to learn to listen to the public as well as to consult with a wider group of
political competitors. Transitional processes that provide for the gradual expansion of political
participation before competition moves to the ballot box and before long-term constitutions are
adopted are more likely to lead to widely accepted electoral results and constitutions.
Given the multiple challenges transitional power-sharing governments face in taking joint
decisions, bringing non-signatories into the peace process and managing demands for
inclusion from the public and the unarmed opposition, the role of third parties remains
indispensable. It has been argued that third parties need to assist power-sharing governments
to carry out the tasks entrusted to them, while helping them to manage the increasing
demands for political participation from various segments of society before elections are held.
This is a challenging agenda for third parties, who often expend considerable financial and
political resources to bring about the signing of peace agreements. It is especially demanding
given the resistance of power-sharing elites to tolerate continued external intrusion in their
affairs. However, in the absence of continued political engagement, it is likely that peace
processes will be derailed or fail to achieve their stated objectives.
This paper is part of a series of background papers written for the Oslo forum
2008, which was hosted by the Royal Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs
and the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue. 12
+1 anno fa
Dispensa per il corso di Teorie dei conflitti e dei processi di pace della Prof.ssa Maria Luisa Maniscalco. Trattasi del saggio di Katia Papagianni dal titolo "Power sharing, transitional governments and the role of mediation" all'interno del quale viene affrontato il tema del ruolo dei governi di transizione di power-sharing come strumento di peackeeping e peacebuilding.
I contenuti di questa pagina costituiscono rielaborazioni personali del Publisher Atreyu di informazioni apprese con la frequenza delle lezioni di Teorie dei conflitti e processi di pace e studio autonomo di eventuali libri di riferimento in preparazione dell'esame finale o della tesi. Non devono intendersi come materiale ufficiale dell'università Roma Tre - Uniroma3 o del prof Maniscalco Maria Luisa.
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