Benjamin Reilly, "Political Engineering and Party
Politics in Papua New Guinea," Party Politics, 8
(November, 2002), 701-718.
In recent years, the possibility of 'political engineering'
-- crafting the institutional 'rules of the game' to achieve
certain objectives -- has become an increasingly attractive
option for influencing the development of political system
in new and established democracies alike (Diamond, 1999;
Sartori, 1994; Weaver and Rockman, 1993). Political
engineering is not a new idea: indeed, the possibility of
influencing the development of a political system via
institutional design has ancient antecedents in political
science. However, it was perhaps given contemporary
prominence by Sartori (1968), who argued that political
development, particularly in new democracies, could be aided
by the adoption of institutions that constrain the
centrifugal tendencies which affect many newly created
Figures and Tables:
Overall, only time will tell if institutional reform will
work for Papua New Guinea. While there is a strong sense
among observers and advisers that 'something needs be done'
to address the problems discussed in this article, there is
also scepticism that Papua New Guinea's 'entrenched
political culture of localised and personalised
electioneering and fluid party allegiances can be changed
from above -- in effect, by constitutional fiat' (Standish,
2001: 295). However, while it may be too early to evaluate
the success of the reforms, they do represent an innovative
institutional response to an issue that has plagued many new
democracies: the problem of political instability created by
a weak and fragmented party system leading to regular
parliamentary upheavals and changes in executive government.
If Papua New Guinea's political engineering does succeed in
promoting more meaningful parties, more stable parliaments
and more representative politicians -- and it is a big if --
it will represent a major breakthrough in the ongoing quest
to build a sustainable political system that can support
economic growth in that country. The result may be of
relevance not just to Papua New Guinea, but to other
countries struggling to institutionalize a stable party
system and consolidate democracy.