Accountability and Participation

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.

    International Journal of Middle East Studies | 08/2023

    The Past is Never Dead. It's Not Even Past: History and Memory in Iraq Studies

    20 Years after the US invasion of Iraq this roundtable section reflects on recent Iraqi history and contemporary developments with an eye toward memory politics. It builds on a conference held at the German Institute for Global and Area Studies (GIGA) in Hamburg in March 2023 and portrays emerging avenues for research.

    Dr. Achim Rohde

    Academy in Exile

    Republik | Article | 02/09/2023

    Was uns die Staats­streiche in Afrika über die neue Welt­ordnung verraten

    Das Militär hat sich in Niger und Gabun an die Macht geputscht – mit einschneidenden Folgen für diese Länder. Doch die Macht­verschiebungen in der internationalen Politik gehen weit darüber hinaus. 

    LatinAmerica 21 | Expert Comment / Guest Contribution | 27/08/2023

    El “Trump de las Pampas”: Argentina suma un riesgo más

    Argentina is adding a new risk to its long list of problems. Frustration and anger in Argentina with the economic situation and the disappointing performance of the traditional parties led to a populist figure get first position in the primaries on 13 August.

    GIGA Focus Middle East | 4/2023

    Tunisia’s Autocratisation under President Kais Saied

    After the Arab uprisings, Tunisia would emerge as the only Arab democracy. President Kais Saied’s July 2021 coup has, however, led to the autocratisation of the state. This GIGA Focus traces Saied’s base of support, his strategies, and rhetoric, as well as their implications for Tunisia’s future.

    Research Project | 01/02/2023 - 31/01/2024

    Mapping and Strengthening Civil Society Response to Disinformation

    Governments in autocratic and autocratizing contexts may use anti-fake news laws to discredit critical civil society actors as agents of “disinformation” and punish them. Through comparative and cross-learning insights derived from field studies, we seek to map civil society responses against the autocratic use of disinformation laws and strengthen policies for right to information and freedom of speech and expression.
    NED, 2023-2024

    Research Project | 01/01/2023 - 31/08/2024

    Strengthening Civil Society Against the Weaponization of Anti-Fake News Laws: A Comparison of Bangladesh, Indonesia, and Thailand

    In an age of proliferating disinformation, governments in South and Southeast Asia have come out with anti-fake news laws. However, the “weaponization" of such laws can lead governments to control online platforms and censor critics. Our project examines the patterns and processes of the weaponization of such laws against civic actors and countermeasures by the latter. We aim for academic and policy outcomes to improve disinformation regulation while safeguarding digital rights.
    GIGA, 2023-2024

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

    Democratic Institutions in the Global South (DEMINGS)

    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

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

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

    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

    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

    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

    Kyoto University


    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.


    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

    Regional Institutes

    Africa|Asia|Latin America|Middle East


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