Opposition Weakness in Africa

Lise Rakner, Nicolas van de Walle
2009 Journal of Democracy  
Multiparty elections in Africa, since their emergence in the early 1990s, have proven to be both contagious and resilient. Before November 1989-the date of Namibia's independence and the generally accepted beginning of sub-Sarahan Africa's democratic wave-only Botswana and Mauritius had held regular multiparty elections. Between 1989 and 2007, however, the region witnessed some 120 competitive presidential elections in 39 countries, and 137 legislative elections in 41 countries, in which
more » ... e parties won seats. 1 More than half the countries in the region have sufficiently institutionalized multiparty elections to have convened at least four such presidential and four legislative elections during this period. The quality of these contests appears to be improving over time, and some countries have become more democratic since first convening multiparty elections. Despite advances, however, more than half the region's multiparty systems are not democratic, even by the most generous definition, and only a few have made discernable progress toward liberal democracy. A number of indicators point to the limits of democratization. To name but one, few African incumbents have actually lost an election in which they competed. This essay examines the impact of elections on democratization in the fledgling multiparty systems of sub-Saharan Africa, and especially the extent to which opposition parties in the region are able to compete effectively. Their strength and strategies are intrinsically linked to the dynamics of contemporary democratization in Africa. Fortifying opposition parties and their positions in the national legislature should therefore form a central component of any strategy of "democratization by elections."
doi:10.1353/jod.0.0096 fatcat:6rzshyjlbngntbfvpoyjcd5ug4