Elected representatives as interlocutors
The Mwananchi programme identifies elected representatives as key stakeholders in governance. Members of Parliaments, for example, have potential to enhance representation, policy and accountability in their countries. This brings about positive effects on good governance through their legislative, oversight and representational roles. One of parliament’s crucial roles is that of legislation when it passes laws from which government policy formulation and implementation is derived from. This is parliament’s exclusive role as the media and civil society cannot play this part. Parliament also checks the power of the executive on budgets and ensures separation of powers between the judiciary and the executive.
Creating horizontal and vertical accountability mechanisms, again a role that the other Mwananchi stakeholders, media and civil society, cannot play are part of what elected representatives engage in. They are able to do this because of their access to citizens at the grassroots level and also their ability to influence government structures. This role is important because of the nature of African states especially when the wider uses of informal rules are taken into account. In addition to that, parliaments also have access to information through select committees and this is important for effective monitoring and holding of governments to account.
In neo-patrimonial states, for example, MPs belonging to the president’s party are more powerful than those from the opposition. Furthermore, it is common for MPs to switch sides to the ruling party once elected into parliament as independent candidates as this is seen as one way of winning resources for constituency development such as roads, food security and other development projects.
On the other hand, local government councillors provide unique interface between citizens and the state in terms of linking traditional and formal institutions of governance. In the Mwananchi programme countries councillors mediate between formal and informal governance institutions. Decentralisation and devolution currently taking place in most programme countries provides opportunities for building relationships between local government, civil society organisations and the media. In most instances councillors work with traditional leaders’ whose role and function is determined by their country contexts, contestations of power and access to resources.