September 19, 2008, Roland Rich

(Click to enlarge) Roland Rich, Executive Head, United Nations Democracy Fund (UNDEF), discusses parliamentary systems in the Philippines, Thailand, and Indonesia at the East-West Center in Washington on September 19, 2008.

Parliaments with an Antipathy to Political Parties: Three Southeast Asian Cases

(Washington DC) September 19 – The efforts of three Southeast Asian nations to create alternatives to political parties to address specific systemic issues not only have failed to rectify the problems, but also have greatly compromised the function of democracy in those nations, according to Roland Rich of the United Nations Democracy Fund, in comments made at a luncheon seminar on September 19, 2008, at the East-West Center in Washington.

Mr. Rich drew from his rich diplomatic experience in Southeast Asia as well as his scholarly research – Pacific Asia: In Quest of Democracy (Lynne Rienner, 2007) – in analyzing the shortcomings of the Party-List system in the Philippine House of Representatives, the Senate under the 1997 Constitution of Thailand, and the Indonesian Representatives Assembly of the Regions. In all three cases, political parties were seen as part of the problem, not part of the solution. But efforts to design them out of these parliamentary institutions, have ended up delivering far less than the designers or the electorate had hope for, Mr. Rich maintained.

Roland Rich is currently Executive Head of the United Nations Democracy Fund (UNDEF). Prior to his appointment to UNDEF in 2007, Mr. Rich taught international relations at the Centre for Defence and Strategic Studies of the Australian Defence College and was also a Fellow at the National Endowment for Democracy in Washington DC in 2005. From 1998 to 2005, he was the Foundation Director of the Centre for Democratic Institutions at the Australian National University.

Mr. Rich has also had over twenty years of experience in the Australian Foreign Service. From 1994-1997, he served as Australian Ambassador to Laos and has held postings in Paris, Rangoon, and Manila. He was also the Legal Advisor and the Assistant Secretary for International Organisations in the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.