Accountability and Participation

The Accountability and Participation Research Programme undertakes comparative analyses of ongoing political processes that may foster or undermine the quality of democratic institutions and spread authoritarian politics and practices in the Global South and across the globe.


  • How is political rule organised? How do politicians exercise power? Who governs with which legitimation and which practices? Since the beginning of the century global democracy has been in decline. Processes of democratic erosion or reversal have affected new and established democracies across continents. Even citizens in some autocracies have been confronting hardening conditions. These piecemeal regime transitions may provoke substantial decline in political competition, participation or accountability. The Accountability and Participation Research Programme investigates political processes, institutional change, and socio-political developments taking place in the Global South.

    Our research focuses on state–society and intra-state political dynamics in different political regimes. We pay attention to how civil society organises itself, and how it protests and mobilises its members and supporters to assert its demands and get politicians to deliver under conditions of high levels of economic and social inequality, and often of political repression. Likewise, we analyse the leadership’s responsiveness towards citizens’ demands and the empowerment of executives above other actors and institutions. We are interested in the prevalence of informal practices, such as clientelism and corruption, which may imperil the rule of law and, in democracies, the link between citizens and political elites, thereby providing opportunities for populist mobilisation. In addition, the study of authoritarian political practices at national or local levels alerts us on the emergence and spread of authoritarian enclaves in different political regimes. Our researchers develop context-sensitive research in the field of comparative politics and related disciplines such as sociology, legal studies, and political economy. They actively engage in scholarly exchange with researchers in the regions and provide civil society organisations and decision-makers with research-grounded expertise on the Global South’s most relevant socio-political dynamics.

    The Research Programme’s work is conducted in two Research Teams. The Democratic Institutions Research Team studies the functioning of political institutions and policy-making processes under strong executive leadership as well as mechanisms of vertical accountability and social participation in democratic and semi-democratic regimes. The Authoritarian Politics Research Team focuses on authoritarian regime characteristics, strategies, internal dynamics, and transformation processes. It also examines the role of authoritarian political practices in autocracies and democracies at the sub-national, the regional and global levels.

    GIGA Talk | 11/01/2022

    Labour Migration in the Gulf – Building Wealth on Precarity

    Migrant workers live in precarious conditions in the Persian Gulf region. Migration regulations prevent naturalisation; for many, however, the region is a second home. This GIGA Talk offers analysis of the structural problems in the regional labour market and a discussion of the consequences for international cooperation.

    Online Workshop | 02/12/2021 - 03/12/2021

    RedGob Workshop: Latin American Democracies in Crisis. Causes, Processes, and Remedies

    This workshop, organised by the GIGA, brings together renowned European and Latin American scholars from the Red Euro-Latinoamericana de Gobernabilidad para el Desarrollo to discuss and present their most recent research on the state of democratic institutions in Latin America. Los debates serán en inglés, español y portugués.

    GIGA Focus Global | 8/2021

    Sustaining Civic Space in Times of COVID-19: Global Trends

    Autocracies worldwide have exploited COVID-19 to curtail civil liberties. However, the health crisis and related socio-economic setbacks have also created needs-induced space, leading to a rise of civil society relief activism and protests. Read more in this GIGA Focus Global.

    GIGA Focus Latin America | 5/2021

    COVID-19 in Latin America: Where We Stand and What Is to Come

    The authors of this GIGA Focus analyse the current COVID-19 situation in Latin America and the challenges facing the countries. Texto completo disponible en español.

    Prof. Dr. Jan Felix Drexler

    Prof. Dr. Bert Hoffmann

    Lead Research Fellow / Head GIGA Berlin Office Editor GIGA Focus Latin America

    GIGA Focus Global | 6/2021

    The Shadow Pandemic: Policy Efforts on Gender-Based Violence during COVID-19 in the Global South

    With the pandemic, the risk of violence against women and children, especially within the home, increased further as people sheltered at home at the same time that they faced great financial and emotional stress. The authors of this GIGA Focus assess government efforts to address and treat gender-based violence.

    GIGA Talk | 20/10/2021

    The Shadow Pandemic: Policy Efforts Addressing Gender-Based Violence During COVID-19

    In the course of the COVID-19 pandemic the risk of gender-based violence, especially within the home, has further increased. Governments around the world are addressing this problem quite differently. In this GIGA Forum/GIGA Talk, experts will discuss the effect of related government responses and offer policy recommendations.

    In Brief | 18/10/2021

    Learning Democracy: Call for Participation for Youth Exchange

    The GIGA is excited to invite five young people (between the ages of 18 and 30) from Germany to take part in a Youth Exchange activity on learning about, for, and through democracy with tabletop games. The activity will take place from 28 November to 4 December 2021 in Almuñecar, Spain and is funded by ERASMUS+.

    Democratization | 2022

    Sequences of Presidential-Term-Limit Reforms: Latin America and sub-Saharan Africa

    In this article the authors take a longitudinal view on presidential-term-limit reforms in Latin America and sub-Saharan Africa since the third wave of democratization. Many countries (re)introduced the measure as a democratic safeguard against abuse of power; since then, it has been repeatedly challenged.

    Prof. Dr. Mariana Llanos

    Lead Research Fellow / Head of RP 1

    Democratization | 2022

    Contested, Violated but Persistent: Presidential Term Limits in Latin America and Sub-Saharan Africa: Introduction to Special Issue

    The term limits of presidents as a crucial institutional feature to safeguard democracy have often been contested by incumbents. The authors of this article argue that bringing together knowledge on Latin America and Sub-Saharan Africa provides new empirical and theoretical insights.

    Prof. Dr. Mariana Llanos

    Lead Research Fellow / Head of RP 1

    Democratization | 2022

    Sequences of Presidential-Term-Limit Reforms: Latin America and sub-Saharan Africa

    In this article the authors take a longitudinal view on presidential-term-limit reforms in Latin America and sub-Saharan Africa since the third wave of democratization. Many countries (re)introduced the measure as a democratic safeguard against abuse of power; since then, it has been repeatedly challenged.

    Prof. Dr. Mariana Llanos

    Lead Research Fellow / Head of RP 1

    GIGA Focus Africa | 7/2021

    Elections and Government Legitimacy in Fragile States

    The collapse of elected civilian governments – as in Mali, Afghanistan and Guinea – raises the question of the legitimacy of a government. The author of this GIGA Focus argues that elections alone are often not enough to legitimise a government of fragile states in the eyes of the citizens.

    Dr. Malte Lierl

    Research Fellow / Speaker Research Team

    Research Project | 15/01/2022 - 14/12/2024

    COVID-19 and Executive Personalization in Sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, Latin America and the MENA Region

    In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, political leaders reacted by containment measures that, next to combating the spread of the pandemic, also presented a window of opportunity to bolster executives’ personal grasp on power. Personalization of power has been particularly worrying in the Global South where constraints on the chief executives were often already weak prior to the pandemic. This project assesses the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the personalization of executive power in 36 countries of the Global South.
    DFG, 2021-2024

    Research Project | 01/01/2022 - 30/06/2023

    Sanctions Termination in Times of Crises: Unpacking the Role of External Shocks

    In March 2020, the UN Secretary-General called for the easing of sanctions against Iran in response to COVID-19. Hence, external shocks are potentially related to sanctions termination. Yet, the effect of different types of external shocks such as pandemics, natural disasters, and economic crises on the (gradual) removal of sanctions has not been systematically studied. This project examines when and how external shocks affect sanctions termination through a nested research design combining new data collection, statistical analyses, and two case studies.
    DFG, 2022-2023

    Dr. Julia Grauvogel

    Senior Research Fellow / Speaker Research Team

    Hana Attia

    Doctoral Researcher

    Research Project | 01/05/2021 - 30/04/2026

    Democratic Institutions in the Global South

    This project contributes new knowledge on the functioning of democratic institutions in the Global South, their (in)efficacy to constrain powerful executives, and the effects of particular institutions on both democratic quality and regime stability. The focus is on countries with presidential constitutions, i.e., those with directly elected presidents, an institutional choice that extended worldwide in the last decades.
    Leibniz Competition, 2021-2026

    Prof. Dr. Mariana Llanos

    Lead Research Fellow / Head of RP 1

    Research Project | 01/05/2021 - 31/12/2025

    German-Latin American Centre of Infection & Epidemiology Research and Training

    The COVID-19 pandemic is showing that infectious diseases can only be solved by global efforts; and that medical and social approaches must go hand in hand in order to provide solutions. Based on this understanding, the GIGA has become part of the new multi-disciplinary DAAD-funded „German-Latin American Centre of Infection & Epidemiology Research and Training“ – GLACIER and will work on a comparative study of vaccination policies in Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean. DAAD, 2021-2025

    Prof. Dr. Bert Hoffmann

    Lead Research Fellow / Head GIGA Berlin Office Editor GIGA Focus Latin America

    Valeria Morales

    Doctoral Researcher

    Research Project | 01/03/2021 - 31/08/2022

    (Un-)healthy Civil-Military Relations? Militarization of State Responses to the COVID-19 Pandemic in Latin America and Asia-Pacific

    A number of governments in Latin America and Asia-Pacific have given their militaries wide-ranging responsibilities to counter the COVID-19 pandemic. While the militarization of politics and public life partly precedes the pandemic, COVID-19 acts as a major stress test. States have mobilized the military to support civilian health systems and administrative agencies, and to uphold public order. This project examines the role the military plays in the COVID-19 pandemic response in 36 countries in Asia-Pacific and Latin America.
    Volkswagen Foundation, 2021-2022

    Prof. Dr. Aurel Croissant

    Dr. David Kuehn

    Senior Research Fellow / Coordinator GIGA Forum

    Research Project | 01/03/2021 - 31/08/2023

    The Belt and Road Initiative and Southeast Asian Countries: The Debt Curse Perspective; WP “Political Implications of the BRI in Malaysia”

    This is a collaborative research project of 11 researchers led by a research team at the University of Kyoto (Japan). It analyses the political and economic consequences of Chinese investments within the framework of the BRI and focuses on countries in Southeast Asia.
    Japan Society for the Promotion of Science, 2021-2023

    Ass. Prof. Dr. Akihisa Mori

    Dr. Andreas Ufen

    Senior Research Fellow / Speaker Research Team

    Research Project | 01/01/2021 - 30/04/2022

    Digital Surveillance and Understanding Its Chilling Effect on Journalists: Finding Strategies and Solutions to Safely Seek and Share Information Online

    As democracies are getting increasingly digitalized, digital surveillance can impact the freedom of the press and of speech and expression. Surveillance may also shape the creation and flow of information and the formation of public opinion. This project examines how surveillance affects a major information agent: journalists.
    Mozilla Foundation, 2021-2022

    Research Project | 01/10/2020 - 31/10/2021

    Policy Tracker on Gender-Based Violence

    The policy tracker aims to provide context, insight and analysis into governmental response to issues of gender based violence during the coronavirus pandemic. We will collect data globally, and engage in more detailed case studies of a smaller set of countries. Our goal is to create a publicly available knowledge exchange platform for policy-makers, scholars and advocates.
    BMZ, GIGA, 2020-2021

    Prof. Dr. Merike Blofield

    Director of the GIGA Institute for Latin American Studies

    Asma Khalifa

    Doctoral Researcher / Representative of Doctoral Researchers

    Team

    Martin Acheampong

    Research Fellow

    Hager Ali

    Doctoral Researcher

    Hana Attia

    Doctoral Researcher

    Dr. André Bank

    Senior Research Fellow

    Prof. Dr. Merike Blofield

    Director of the GIGA Institute for Latin American Studies

    So Young Chang

    Doctoral Researcher

    Pedro Costa

    Doctoral Researcher

    Dr. Julia Grauvogel

    Senior Research Fellow / Speaker Research Team

    Aline-Sophia Hirseland

    Doctoral Researcher

    Dr. Nicole Hirt

    Research Fellow

    Prof. Dr. Bert Hoffmann

    Lead Research Fellow / Head GIGA Berlin Office Editor GIGA Focus Latin America

    Prof. Dr. Heike Holbig

    Senior Research Fellow / Editor GIGA Focus Asia

    Dastan Jasim

    Doctoral Researcher

    Dr. Maria Josua

    Research Fellow / Speaker Research Team

    Prof. Dr. Patrick Köllner

    Director of the GIGA Institute for Asian Studies / Vice President

    Indi-Carolina Kryg

    Office of the President / Doctoral Researcher

    Dr. David Kuehn

    Senior Research Fellow / Coordinator GIGA Forum

    Dr. Malte Lierl

    Research Fellow / Speaker Research Team

    Prof. Dr. Mariana Llanos

    Lead Research Fellow / Head of RP 1

    Jayane Maia

    Doctoral Researcher

    Dr. Alyssa Miller

    Research Fellow

    Valeria Morales

    Doctoral Researcher

    Dr. Lars Pelke

    Research Fellow

    Johanna Pieper

    Doctoral Researcher

    Dr. Thomas Richter

    Senior Research Fellow / Editor GIGA Focus Middle East

    Luca Rochowski

    Research Fellow

    Richard Roewer

    Doctoral Researcher

    Isabel Rosales

    Doctoral Researcher

    Ana Soares

    Doctoral Researcher

    Dr. Esther Song

    Research Fellow

    Dr. Cordula Tibi Weber

    Research Fellow

    Dr. Andreas Ufen

    Senior Research Fellow / Speaker Research Team

    Siri Völker

    Doctoral Researcher / Research Data Management

    Askan Weidemann

    Doctoral Researcher / Representative of Doctoral Researchers


    Research Teams

    The Research Programme’s work is conducted in two Research Teams. The Democratic Institutions Research Team studies the functioning of political institutions and policy-making processes under strong executive leadership as well as mechanisms of vertical accountability and social participation in democratic and semi-democratic regimes. The Authoritarian Politics Research Team focuses on authoritarian regime characteristics, strategies, internal dynamics, and transformation processes. It also examines the role of authoritarian political practices in autocracies and democracies at the sub-national, the regional and global levels.

    Research Team 1: Democratic Institutions

    The Democratic Institutions Research Team looks into the functioning of formal and informal political institutions, the ways in which citizens seek and/or fail to hold power-holders accountable, the policy-making process, and processes of democratic erosion in the democratic and semi-democratic regimes of the Global South. The team’s current research concentrates on three areas.

    Executive politics in unconsolidated democracies is usually characterised by powerful presidents that seek to control formal institutions and decision processes. We examine the behavioural and institutional dimensions of executive leadership by analysing which interests drive their political decisions. We focus also on the institutional and political dynamics of powerful executives, such as the personalisation of power, populist discourses, and institutional engineering.

    Powerful executives frequently face relatively weak control institutions, such as courts and legislatures which may imperil democracy. We study how institutions of horizontal accountability are challenged but also the strategies that these institutions apply to bolster their legitimacy and independence.

    Citizens can hold their governments accountable through elections, civic engagement and protest. The research team analyses the quality of elections as well as the influence of clientelism and ethnic politics on electoral processes. Moreover, we look at the ways in which civil society organises itself around topics of democracy, identity, and sustainability, and we identify the factors influencing the success of mobilisation.

    Our work is primarily empirical and is based on extensive original data collection. We use a range of empirical methods, including qualitative approaches, such as process tracing and comparative case studies, as well as statistical analysis and field experiments.

    Research Team 2: Authoritarian Politics

    This Research Team studies authoritarian political practices in states all over the world. We analyse authoritarian regime characteristics, strategies, internal dynamics, and interaction with citizens, societal groups, and the political opposition. We study transformation processes such as the emergence, persistence, and demise of authoritarian regimes. Since authoritarian practices are not limited to autocracies, we also investigate their role in democracies.

    Our research often centres on actors and their behaviour within certain institutional and discursive contexts. Relevant actors include political elites, security services, the political opposition and protest movements, and diaspora populations. We study civil-military relations, shrinking spaces for civil society, and regime responses to popular protests, including both concessions and repression. Discourses to justify coercion tie in with general strategies of legitimation and co-optation that matter in authoritarian contexts.

    Our analyses are not limited to the nation-state level, as we also investigate authoritarian politics on the sub-national, the regional, and global levels, taking into account international cooperation, diffusion and learning processes that spread authoritarian practices across the globe. Our research builds on theories from comparative politics and integrates insights from sociology, international relations, foreign policy analysis, and political communication. We employ and welcome a broad variety of methodological approaches and types of data.


    Speaker Team 1

    Dr. Andreas Ufen

    Senior Research Fellow / Speaker Research Team

    Speaker Team 2

    Dr. Maria Josua

    Research Fellow / Speaker Research Team


    President

    Prof. Dr. Amrita Narlikar is President of the GIGA. Her research focuses on international negotiations, economic statecraft, and multilateralism. She has a special interest in India, Asia, and the BRICS.

    Office of the President

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