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Collapse of the Opposition Inter-Party Coalition in Uganda

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Catherine Promise Biira

2. Coalition Collapse in the Context of Negotiation and Inter-Party Cooperation Theory

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1Although most negotiators are primarily focused on reaching an agreement, the case of the opposition Inter-Party Cooperation coalition in Uganda demonstrates that “getting to yes” is not enough. The IPC collapsed just five months before it could participate in the very election it had been formed to commonly contest. As suggested in the previous section, while disagreement as to whether the coalition should participate in the 2011 election was publicly stated as the cause of the IPC collapse, the real explanation lies in the poor relationship that existed among the IPC partners prior to the negotiation of the Additional Protocol.

  • 1  Fisher, R., W. Ury and B. Patton (1991). Getting to Yes: Negotiating An Agreement Without Giving I (...)
  • 2  Iklé, Fred Charles. How Nations Negotiate. New York: Kraus Reprint Company, 1964, p. 3.

2The literature on negotiation and coalition building/collective action provides many entry points towards understanding the outcome of the IPC. Broadly, there are two categories of theory that offer potential explanations of the IPC negotiation. The first is represented by interest based/rational choice theories, which focus on the substantive goals and interests at play in a negotiation. The other category of theories, such as the insight approach, in contrast, focus on relational aspects and how they affect decision making in negotiations. In their insightful book ‘Getting to Yes’, Fisher, Ury and Patton define negotiation as: ‘A basic means of getting what you want from others. It is back-and-forth communication designed to reach an agreement when you and the other side have some interests that are shared and others that are opposed.’1 In other contexts, negotiation has also been defined as ‘a process in which explicit proposals are put forward ostensibly for the purpose of reaching agreement on an exchange or on the realization of a common interest where conflicting interests are present.’2

  • 3  Alfredson, T. and A. Cungu (2008). ‘Negotiation Theory and Practice: A Review of the Literature’. (...)

3According to a Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) publication, ‘One basic assumption in parties’ decision to negotiate is that there is agreement in at least one fundamental respect; the belief that their respective purposes will be better served by entering into negotiation with the other party. Implicitly then, negotiating parties have come to the conclusion, at least for a moment, that they may be able to satisfy their individual goals or concerns more favourably by coming to an agreed upon solution with the other side, than by attempting to meet their goals or concerns unilaterally’.3

4Looking at the above assertion, the motivation for negotiation stems mainly from the realization that parties cannot achieve their objectives if they do not work in concert with others. Alternatively, it may be possible for parties to achieve their goals when acting alone, but at greater cost. This implies that in such circumstances, unilateral action is plausible in so far as a party finds the costs of such an endeavour lower than those it would incur if it cooperated with another. Similarly, this formulation also relies on the assumption that following the negotiation, after the gains have been shared with a cooperating partner, the benefits accrued exceed those expected in the absence of cooperation.

5In a rationalist account, it is this balancing of costs and benefits that dictates the behaviour of concerned parties. It holds that the relevant parties will act in a manner that minimizes the extent to which their gains can be further appropriated. To understand the dynamics of inter-party negotiations, therefore, one should account for the behaviour of parties during a negotiation process, from the decision to cooperate (or not), to the behaviour exhibited during negotiations, through to the implementation of, or commitment to, negotiated decisions. Since implementation is the last step of the process, its successful execution is largely dependent on the stability of the cooperation/coalition.

  • 4  Pedersen, H. H. (2010). ‘How Intra-party Power Relations Affect the Coalition Behaviour of Politic (...)
  • 5  Pedersen, 2010, p. 739.

6The ability of a party to maximize its gains from a negotiation situation has been explained from different perspectives in the inter-party cooperation literature. One of the most interesting insights of this literature relates to the decision of a key political party not to cooperate. Helene Pedersen explains that intra-party politics is a significant determinant of a party’s behaviour within inter-party negotiations.4 Specifically, she highlights the decentralization of intra-party policy decisions, recruitment procedures that benefit party members, and the ease with which a party leader can be replaced as critical factors in determining a party’s behaviour. She asserts that ‘when activists, who are assumed primarily to be policy-motivated, are included in decision making, it is more difficult to make policy compromises, and the party shall be more constrained in inter-party negotiations’.5 She further asserts that the easier it is for a party leader to be replaced, due to the need to appease supporters, the more constrained (s)he is. Parties therefore have to behave in a manner that avoids the perception of certain compromises as a betrayal of the party.

  • 6  Hendrix, E. M. T. et al. (2013). ‘Coalition Formation: The Role of Procedure and Policy Flexibilit (...)

7Decisions not to cooperate are also explained by what Hendrix et al refer to as ‘manoeuvring spaces’, and what Warwick (as cited by Hendrix) call ‘policy horizons’, which refer to the limits beyond which a given party will not compromise on policy, and would prefer to remain in opposition.6 A party whose manoeuvring space is heavily curtailed will not join a coalition. These policy-oriented explanations assume a situation wherein the concerned parties are ideologically grounded and have clear and distinct policy positions unique to them. Such explanations also appear to presume that policy convergence is the primary bargaining ground in coalition formation. Overall, the literature suggests that party leaders as individuals and parties as institutions base their cooperation-related decisions upon the desires of their domestic constituents/ party members.

  • 7  Watkins, M. and S. Rosegrant (1996). ‘Sources of Power in Coalition Building’. Negotiation Journal (...)

8Why cooperate? At any given  moment, an independent political party has two possible approaches to attaining its aspirations. On one hand, the party may work unilaterally, while, on the other it may choose cooperation instead. For a coalition to form, it is argued that the following conditions must exist: shared or compatible interests; an opportunity to undertake collective action; communication and agreement to cooperate among the parties.7 When a political party realizes that achievement of its goal is unlikely if it acts unilaterally, and the above conditions exist, the party will seek a coalition.

  • 8  Oyugi O. W. (2006). ‘Coalition Politics and Coalition Governments in Africa’. Journal of Contempor (...)
  • 9 Kadima, D. (ed.) (2006). The Politics of Party Coalitions in Africa, 2nd edition. Auckland Park: El (...)

9As Oyugi states in reference to political party coalitions in Africa, coalition formation is a ‘necessary evil – an evil in the sense that normally no party ever coalesces except in circumstances in which not to do so would deprive it of the chance to exercise power.’8 Oyugi’s assertion is in line with the theoretical premise that coalitions are mainly formed for purposes of seeking power, thus leading such coalitions to be referred to as ‘opportunistic’ or ‘unprincipled’.9 With the exception of his failure to consider parties lacking parliamentary representation, Altmann sums up the motivation of cooperation among parties in his definition of coalitions as:

  • 10  Altmann (2000) as cited by Oyugi, 2006, p. 53.

‘temporal combination of groups or individuals formed to pursue specific objectives through joint action. Specifically, it is a set of parliamentary political parties that agree to pursue a common goal or a common set of goals; pool their resources together in pursuit of this goal; communicate and form binding commitments concerning their goals; (and) agree on distribution of payoffs to be received on obtaining their goals’. 10

  • 11  Van Beest, I. et al (2008). ‘Do Groups Exclude Others More Readily than Individuals in Coalition F (...)

10Although self-interest has been the dominant paradigm for explanations of motivations for negotiation/cooperation, Ilja van Beest et al categorize party interests as represented by individual players to be either ‘pro-self’ or ‘social value’ oriented. In view of that, they posit that ‘social interactions of coalition parties are not only shaped by concerns about their own payoff (i.e. self interest) but also by broader social or inter-individual concerns, such as concern with joint outcomes, concern with others’ outcomes, and concern with equality in outcomes.’11 For them, self-interest only partially accounts for the motivation to form coalitions. The long-term relationship between the parties also appears to be of concern in this paradigm. Parties do not look at cooperation as a one-off interaction to be exploited for their own advantage regardless of what happens to the other parties. Instead, the negotiation is generally understood as a process from which all parties should emerge fairly happy, thus enhancing their relationship.

11Lax and Sebenius affirm this assertion when they state that:

  • 12  Lax, D. A, and K. J. Sebenius (2002). ‘Deal Crafting: The Substance of Three-Dimensional Negotiati (...)

‘the concept of value in negotiation depends on a full set of the parties’ interests and these interests may be noneconomic as well as economic, intangible as well as tangible, altruistic as well as selfish, and group as well as individual. Since most important negotiations occur in a context of continuing relationships and since effective negotiators often look beyond single transactions, the key question thus is: How can parties create value on a sustainable basis?’12

  • 13  Oyugi, 2006, p. 66.

12This is a fundamental question, as unless there is value, there is no incentive to remain in a coalition, and, furthermore, unless coalitions are stable, the possibility of implementing agreed-upon actions is heavily compromised. Incentives for cooperating partners should therefore be structured so as to constantly provide either short-term or long-term value that surpasses the costs parties have suffered, or coalitions will not last. To paraphrase Oyugi, political parties should be able to justify being in a coalition and how these issues are addressed will determine whether a coalition is stillborn or emerges as successfully unified.13

  • 14  Rowley, C. K. (2008). ‘The Perspective of the History of Thought’, in Rowley, C. K. and F. G. Schn (...)

13The stability of coalitions is defined here as the ability of coalition partners to stick together and work towards the attainment of mutually-determined objectives. Stability entails not just the formal acknowledgement of identity as a coalition partner, but also a demonstrated commitment to implementation of agreed-upon resolutions. As previously stated, common interest, the opportunity for collective action, strong communication and an agreement to cooperate are preconditions for coalitions. It is also in these preconditions that stability, and the corresponding ability to implement decisions, is rooted. Common interest is the basis of cooperation, but common interests may be pursued even in the absence of collective action. In fact, theoretical predictions and empirical evidence suggest ‘that many groups that would benefit from collective action will fail to organize effectively for their common interest’.14 In other words, while common interest is necessary, it is not sufficient for effective cooperation to take place, as the pursuit of such an interest does not necessarily need cooperation.

  • 15  Olsen (1965) as cited by Simpson, B. and M. W. Michael (2001). ‘Collective Action and Power Inequa (...)

14In the absence of opportunity for collective action, would-be coalition partners can unilaterally pursue certain goals which are in fact also of interest to other parties. Unless unilateral action is more costly, collective action will not be a sufficient option for potential partners to pursue their goals. In fact, Olson even asserts that common interests do not guarantee successful collective action when participation is costly and benefits are available to everyone, regardless of contribution.15 Keeping coalitions stable therefore is possible if the nature of the coalition or conditions surrounding the parties are prohibitive to unilateral action, be it in the form of a serious alteration in the incentive structure or serious threat to future gains.

  • 16  Zimbardo and Lieppe (1991) as cited by Watkins, M. and S. Rosegrant (1996). ‘Sources of Power in C (...)
  • 17  Ostrom as cited by Awati, K. (2009). ‘Cooperation versus Self-interest: The Theory of Collective A (...)

15Although the self-interest paradigm contradicts this potential for stability in its suggestion that people will break commitments for personal gain, one way of structuring inter-party cooperation to discourage unilateral action is by getting coalition partners to make their commitments public. In the case of political parties, the public takes stock of such commitments and uses them as a basis for assessment of credibility. As Zimbardo and Lieppe suggest, ‘people’s actions, especially those made in public, establish an image that they want others to have of them. Subsequent actions are taken to maintain consistency (or at least appearance of consistency) with this image’.16 Maintaining this projected image is vital, as backing away from public commitment risks serious reputational damage, and may be heavily punished by not only former coalition partners but also key constituencies of supporters. Elinor Ostrom defines reputation as ‘the general view of others towards a person. Reputation is a part of how others perceive a person, so it forms a part of the identity of the person in question. In situations demanding collective action, people might make judgments on a person’s reliability and trustworthiness based on his or her reputation.’17 Margit Tavits demonstrates the primacy of credibility and reputation in structuring future cooperation when she asserts:

  • 18  Tavits, M. (2008). ‘The Role of Parties: Past Behaviour in Coalition Formation’. American Politica (...)

‘If a party withdraws, its coalition partners suffer, because they lose office or are relegated to minority government status. Parties can discourage withdrawals by threatening future punishment. They can make that threat credible by actually punishing defecting parties in the future. One way to punish defecting parties is to exclude them from a future coalition.’18

16While Tavits’ statement is in reference to parties in power, the point remains that there are consequences for defection at any level of cooperation, and when the opportunity arises, the defector will be punished.

  • 19  Watkins and Rosegrant, 1996, p. 61.
  • 20  See Alfredson and Cungu, 2008, p. 13.

17Closely related to the public display of commitment and reputation is the idea of reciprocity, wherein adherence to the ‘I scratch your back you scratch mine’ societal norm is expected. Usually, given the history of coalition partners, one is expected to reciprocate the support they were given in the past when the party that supported them requires assistance. If, in a given transaction, one party made significant concessions, in the next transaction, the other party is expected to make the greater sacrifice. Reciprocity of advantage promotes a sense of mutual sacrifice and, hence, reliability. If a relationship of reciprocity can be achieved, coalitions are more likely to remain intact. However, if one party feels it consistently makes the larger sacrifice, it may foster feelings of resentment with the potential to lead to disintegration of the coalition. Watkins and Rosegrant emphasize that a failure to reciprocate can seriously damage a person or group’s reputation.19 Since negotiation involves some level of sacrifice, a party with a reputation for failing to reciprocate cannot be easily trusted. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) notes that ‘in long-term interactions, the outcome of negotiations – the choice of parties to either cooperate or defect – can depend heavily on the amount of trust that is established between the two sides’.20

  • 21 Cheng Yan, K. B. (2009). ‘Power and Trust in Negotiations and Decision Making: A Critical Evaluatio (...)
  • 22  Cheng Yan, 2009.

18Trust can be a multifaceted tool in negotiations. Yan Ki Bonnie Cheng shows that trust can be employed as a precondition to negotiation in situations where the parties must establish a certain degree of mutual trust before they can even begin negotiation. It can also be employed as an objective of negotiation – wherein parties engage in negotiations as a confidence building measure – and as a ‘strategic means to ends other than relationship-building’.21 Perhaps the significance of trust in coalitions is best illustrated by reflection upon its ability to shape the perceptions that in turn inform actors’ behaviour. ‘Once we decide that someone is trustworthy, other qualities about that person are conceived as consistent with this favourable impression.’22 The reverse is also true. If a party is perceived as untrustworthy, other parties will act in a manner that reflects this perception, which, if they happen to be coalition partners, could result in the defection of a party at best, or the collapse of the coalition at worst.

  • 23  Price, M. (2010). It’s All in Our Heads: What Cognitive Psychology and the Insight Approach Can Te (...)
  • 24  Ross Stagner (1965) ‘The Psychology of Human Conflict’ p. 50 as cited by Price, id., p. 7.
  • 25  Orwell, George (1947). ‘The English People’, in Orwell, Sonia and Ian Angus (eds.), The Collected (...)

19According to Megan Price, ‘there are historical meanings and structural constraints that pre-exist in each of us and that powerfully influence the meanings we make’.23 Price also echoes Cheng’s  assertion in noting that humans pay attention to information that their interpretive framework holds to be true, to such an extent as to ‘remember, automatically, evidence from the past that confirms what we know, and forget evidence that contradicts it’24 thus confirming George Orwell’s statement that ‘myths which are believed in tend to become true’.25 Drawing on the insights of cognitive psychology as a means understanding conflict, the insight approach thus strongly promotes the idea that perceptions influence behaviour.

  • 26  See Fisher, Ury and Patton, 1991, p. 10.
  • 27  Sargent, N., C. Picard and J. Marnie (2011). ‘In Theory Rethinking Conflict: Perspectives from the (...)

20Unlike the principled/interest-based approaches that view conflict arising in negotiations as the result of competition stemming from incompatible goals– and thus prescribe ways of overcoming this dilemma to ‘get to yes’– the insight approach challenges the idea of ‘separating people from the problems’.26 It asserts that conflict stems from the ways in which people make meaning out of their environment, arising when people perceive a ‘threat to their cares’.27 Sargent, Picard and Jull define ‘cares’ as including:

  • 28  Sargent, Picard and Marnie, 2011, p. 345.

‘more than the pursuit of individual or collective interests, needs or values. They also include value- based expectations of others’ behaviour, people’s assumptions of how others ought to act, the presumed patterns of cooperation people consider necessary, and value based judgments of progress and decline that people perceive in the behaviours and intentions of themselves and others.’28

  • 29  Price, 2010,p. 10.
  • 30  Gross Stein, J. (2002). ‘Chapter 15: Psychological Explanations for International Conflict’ in Cal (...)

21In this way, as demonstrated by Price, in its rigid conceptualization of individuals as rational actors who make objective decisions based on cost-benefit analysis, rational choice theory disregards the subjectivity of rationality29 – the idea ‘that individuals seek to maintain the consistency of their “belief systems” against discrepant information in ways that lead them to depart from norms of rational inference and choice’.30 This thus limits rational choice theory’s ability to explain conflict.

  • 31   See Price, 2010, p. 4.

22The insight approach, by ‘locating conflict as a phenomenon of meaning’,31 incorporates the elements of trust, commitment and reciprocity into a dynamic relational perspective that takes into account prior knowledge, past experience, actor interactions, communication and future expectations. This gives the approach strong explanatory power in cases characterized by on-going interactions where relationship factors play a crucial role. It also has the potential to provide more nuanced explanations of negotiation outcomes ‘beyond yes’, such as the outbreak of conflict among coalition partners who have already reached an agreement. It is particularly useful when an explanation for the defection of a particular party or the collapse of a coalition cannot be found in the substantive issues (i.e. differences in payoffs or incompatibility of goals). When considering such issues, which arise ex ante and therefore cannot be attributed to the incentive structure of the negotiation, this approach proves indispensable. As such, this paper examines the collapse of the opposition Inter-Party Cooperation (IPC) in Uganda through the self-interest paradigm as far as applicable, but relies more heavily on the insight approach to provide a full explanation of the IPC outcome.

Notes

1  Fisher, R., W. Ury and B. Patton (1991). Getting to Yes: Negotiating An Agreement Without Giving In, 2nd Edition. London: Random House Business Books.

2  Iklé, Fred Charles. How Nations Negotiate. New York: Kraus Reprint Company, 1964, p. 3.

3  Alfredson, T. and A. Cungu (2008). ‘Negotiation Theory and Practice: A Review of the Literature’. EASYPol Module 179, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), http://www.fao.org/docs/up/easypol/550/4-5_negotiation_background_paper_179en.pdf, p. 6.

4  Pedersen, H. H. (2010). ‘How Intra-party Power Relations Affect the Coalition Behaviour of Political Parties’. Party Politics 16, pp. 739-740.

5  Pedersen, 2010, p. 739.

6  Hendrix, E. M. T. et al. (2013). ‘Coalition Formation: The Role of Procedure and Policy Flexibility’. Group Decision and Negotiation 22 (3), p. 410.

7  Watkins, M. and S. Rosegrant (1996). ‘Sources of Power in Coalition Building’. Negotiation Journal 12 (1), p. 49.

8  Oyugi O. W. (2006). ‘Coalition Politics and Coalition Governments in Africa’. Journal of Contemporary African Studies, 24 (1), p. 54.

9 Kadima, D. (ed.) (2006). The Politics of Party Coalitions in Africa, 2nd edition. Auckland Park: Electoral Institute for the Sustainability of Democracy in Africa and Houghton: Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung, pp. 1, 5.

10  Altmann (2000) as cited by Oyugi, 2006, p. 53.

11  Van Beest, I. et al (2008). ‘Do Groups Exclude Others More Readily than Individuals in Coalition Formation?’. Group Processes and Intergroup Relations 11 (1), p. 57.

12  Lax, D. A, and K. J. Sebenius (2002). ‘Deal Crafting: The Substance of Three-Dimensional Negotiations’. Negotiation Journal 18 (1), p. 6.

13  Oyugi, 2006, p. 66.

14  Rowley, C. K. (2008). ‘The Perspective of the History of Thought’, in Rowley, C. K. and F. G. Schneider (eds.), Readings in Public Choice and Constitutional Political Economy. New York: Springer, p. 188.

15  Olsen (1965) as cited by Simpson, B. and M. W. Michael (2001). ‘Collective Action and Power Inequality: Coalitions in Exchange Networks’. Social Psychology Quarterly 64 (1), p. 88.

16  Zimbardo and Lieppe (1991) as cited by Watkins, M. and S. Rosegrant (1996). ‘Sources of Power in Coalition Building’. Negotiation Journal 12 (1), p. 62.

17  Ostrom as cited by Awati, K. (2009). ‘Cooperation versus Self-interest: The Theory of Collective Action and its Relevance to Project Management’. Eight to late, http://eight2late.wordpress.com/2009/12/02/cooperation-versus-self-interest-the-theory-of-collective-action-and-its-relevance-to-project-management/.

18  Tavits, M. (2008). ‘The Role of Parties: Past Behaviour in Coalition Formation’. American Political Science Review 102 (4), p. 496.

19  Watkins and Rosegrant, 1996, p. 61.

20  See Alfredson and Cungu, 2008, p. 13.

21 Cheng Yan, K. B. (2009). ‘Power and Trust in Negotiations and Decision Making: A Critical Evaluation’. Harvard Negotiation Law Review, http://www.hnlr.org/2009/09/power-and-trust-in-negotiation-and-decision-making-a-critical-evaluation/, September 1.

22  Cheng Yan, 2009.

23  Price, M. (2010). It’s All in Our Heads: What Cognitive Psychology and the Insight Approach Can Tell Us About Disengaging Conflict. Fairfax: School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution, George Mason University, p. 3.

24  Ross Stagner (1965) ‘The Psychology of Human Conflict’ p. 50 as cited by Price, id., p. 7.

25  Orwell, George (1947). ‘The English People’, in Orwell, Sonia and Ian Angus (eds.), The Collected Essay, Journalism and Letters of George Orwell; Vol. 4: In Front of Your Nose, 1945-1950. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1970.

26  See Fisher, Ury and Patton, 1991, p. 10.

27  Sargent, N., C. Picard and J. Marnie (2011). ‘In Theory Rethinking Conflict: Perspectives from the Insight Approach’. Negotiation Journal 27 (3), p. 345.

28  Sargent, Picard and Marnie, 2011, p. 345.

29  Price, 2010,p. 10.

30  Gross Stein, J. (2002). ‘Chapter 15: Psychological Explanations for International Conflict’ in Calrsnaes, W., T. Risse and B. A. Simmons (eds.), Handbook of International Relations. London: Sage Publications Ltd., p. 239.

31   See Price, 2010, p. 4.