Media Center

Press Release


  November 26, 2003

CARTAGENA, Colombia - Political party leaders from some 20 countries in the hemisphere agreed that their organizations are undergoing a credibility crisis that weakens the democratic system and that to overcome the crisis, they must implement structural reforms, enhance transparency in financing and establish closer ties to the citizens whose interests they represent.

These were some of the conclusions of the third meeting of the Inter-American Forum on Political Parties, which ended on Tuesday evening following two days of debate. The meeting, sponsored by the Organization of American States (OAS), drew over 200 participants, including party leaders from a wide range of ideological backgrounds, electoral authorities, academics, and representatives of civil society and international organizations.

“The core theme of this meeting has been the urgent need to restore the value of politics and citizens’ confidence in the political system,” said Elizabeth Spehar, Executive Coordinator of the Unit for the Promotion of Democracy, during the closing session. “This should be an ongoing concern of the Inter-American Forum, not only during the annual meetings but also in our activities and programs throughout the year,” she added.

She underscored the need to ensure that the parties incorporate groups that have traditionally been underrepresented in political life, including women, youth and indigenous peoples. “Many citizens do not believe that the parties can serve as their intermediaries because they do not see themselves reflected in these organizations,” Spehar pointed out.

She also emphasized the importance of delving deeper into the topic of financing for political party campaigns and activities, given “the excessive weight of money in contemporary politics.” She noted that, among the subjects requiring further analysis were the experiences of political reform conducted in various countries and the sometimes difficult relationship between parties and the media.

Spehar summarized some of the concrete proposals that had emerged at the meeting, including the establishment of a special fund to strengthen political parties, the holding of subregional meetings to discuss these topics, and the creation of a set of indicators to measure political party reform processes.

The President of the Latin American Parliament (PARLATINO), Brazilian Congressman Ney Lopes, also spoke during the closing session and analyzed some of the internal and external constraints that parties face. The internal constraints, he said, included “a lack of ideological and doctrinal clarity”; organizational and financial difficulties; insufficiently qualified party leaders and managers; and the proliferation of parties, "which weakens political action, dilutes effective management, and confuses and demoralizes citizens.” Furthermore, he said, many parties fail to take a clear stand on such key issues as economic integration and development.

Among the external constraints on parties, Lopes mentioned “political apathy” and the tendency to discredit both the parties and parliamentarians. He described that attitude, however, as simplistic and biased.

“It is not fair to blame the crisis entirely on members of parliament in the hemisphere, much less on the congresses as institutions. Nor should politicians continue to be denigrated, even though some stray from the straight and narrow. Let us not forget that we in Latin America have suffered an overdose of presidential power,” Mr. Lopes said.

Recalling that PARLATINO has been working on the modernization of political parties for several years, Mr. Lopes offered his organization’s support for efforts to strengthen political parties in the region.

Reference: E-233/03