Political power-sharing provides for power to be shared in political institutions among different groups and parties.
It can include:
- enforced executive coalitions
- proportional legislatures
- forms of communal veto
- proportionality in other political and legal institutions
- segmental autonomy (for example different educational systems for different groups)
- international involvement
Proportions of different forms of power-sharing within political power-sharing agreements
Political power-sharing agreements can be temporary (in interim arrangements) or indefinite (in new political settlements)
Political power-sharing agreements can be temporary – enabling power to be shared in interim transitional government arrangements until elections take place; or indefinite – intended to provide for the political accommodation of groups in a new constitutional settlement.
Permanent ethno-group power-sharing
Interim transitional arrangement
Political power-sharing can be provided for at the level of the national government, or in sub-state regional or local governments, or both
The proportion of political power-sharing agreements that include provisions for power- sharing at the state, sub-state, or both levels
State power-sharing:If an agreement has any mention of power-sharing in the nation-wide institutions of central government through inclusion of the particular groups or parties. Example: Afghanistan
Sub-state power-sharing:If the peace agreement includes any mention of power-sharing at the level of a unit within the state, be it federal, local, or municipal or community. Example: Northern Ireland
Power-sharing at both levels:If the agreement includes any mention of power-sharing at both the level of the state as well as at a federal, local or community level. Example: Burundi
Political power-sharing arrangements provide important security guarantees for state and opposition parties or rebel groups, by offering them a place in government. These guarantees are useful to ending conflict, however, they are often criticised for:
Entrenching the divisions at the heart of the conflict by translating it into new political institutions
Focusing on an elite pact, to the exclusion of any social contract
However, power-sharing arrangements are often successful in stopping conflict but often do not provide a stable politics.
The central challenge is to ensure that the power-sharing arrangements do not operate only as an ‘elite pact’ but have capacity to evolve to a more inclusive social contract.
Elite pact:Some agreements are between those with high rank in politics or the military with an understanding that the success of the peace process relies on their decisions alone.
Social contract:Many processes are based on an understanding that conflict is not simply a result of the decisions of elites, but because of the relationship between those in power and the wider population. A social contract approach aims to improve this relationship.
When power-sharing is temporary, the democratic arrangements designed to replace it may also need to provide for the political accommodation of groups.
Where power-sharing is focused on bringing armed actors into an interim transitional arrangement, these actors need to retain some hope of having access to power post-transition if they are to be incentivised to ‘complete’ the transition.
Political power-sharing arrangements based on group identities, or integrating government and opposition political and military elites, should build in special provision for women and minorities.
Burundi, Burundian Constitution of 18 March 2005.TITLE III: Of the System of Political Parties, Article 78: In their organisation and their functioning the political parties must respond to democratic principles. They must be opened to all Burundians, and their national character must also be reflected at the level of their leadership [direction]. They may not advocate violence, exclusion, and hatred in any of their forms, notably those based on ethnic, regional, religious or gender affiliation.
Human rights measures can form an important safeguard to power-sharing bargains by recognising individual rights.
Good Friday Agreement (GFA) or Belfast Agreement:“69. Noting that there is not at present consensus on a Bill of rights, the parties commit to serving the people of Northern Ireland equally, and to act in accordance with the obligations on government to promote equality and respect and to prevent discrimination; to promote a culture of tolerance, mutual respect and mutual understanding at every level of society, including initiatives to facilitate and encourage shared and integrated education and housing, social inclusion, and in particular community development and the advancement of women in public life; and to promote the interests of the whole community towards the goals of reconciliation and economic renewal.”