The Role of Political
Institutions in Promoting
This chapter reviews the various ways in which political institutions can—in theory and in practice—contribute to greater accountability of public officials to the people on whose behalf they govern. It conceives of political institutions broadly—that is, beyond merely representative bodies or the electoral arrangements through which political leaders are chosen. It does so because even “nonpolitical” institutions are often politicized, which is one of the reasons why accountability of governments to people is in such short supply. Situating political institutions within a broader understanding of political systems allows the nature of de facto relationships in which key actors are embedded to be observed.
The chapter is aimed at a nonspecialist practitioner audience, including government officials (both elected politicians and civil servants) who operate at various levels of a political system and are engaged in a range of functional roles. It does not, therefore, address the full range of theoretical concerns of interest to academic researchers. It does draw on academic research to illustrate some of the variables that appear to play roles in determining the level of accountability achieved in different settings. Brief case studies are also used to illustrate various points.