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Democracy and Elections in Africa

Staffan I. Lindberg

Publication Year: 2006

This volume studies elections as a core institution of liberal democracy in the context of newly democratizing countries. Political scientist Staffan I. Lindberg gathers data from every nationally contested election in Africa from 1989 to 2003, covering 232 elections in 44 countries. He argues that democratizing nations learn to become democratic through repeated democratic behavior, even if their elections are often flawed. Refuting a number of established hypotheses, Lindberg finds no general negative trend in either the frequency or the quality of African elections. Rather, elections in Africa, based on his findings, are more than just the goal of a transition toward democracy or merely a formal procedure. The inception of multiparty elections usually initiates liberalization, and repeated electoral activities create incentives for political actors, fostering the expansion and deepening of democratic values. In addition to improving the democratic qualities of political regimes, a sequence of elections tends to expand and solidify de facto civil liberties in society. Drawing on a wealth of data, Lindberg makes the case that repetitive elections are an important causal factor in the development of democracy. He thus extends Rustow's (1970) theory that democratic behavior produces democratic values.

Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press


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Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. vii-viii

Tables and Figures

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pp. ix-x

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pp. xi-xiii

This book contributes to both the comparative study of democratization and the understanding of African politics in several ways. Since Michael Bratton and Nicholas van de Walle’s (1997) influential Democratic Experiments in Africa there has been no comprehensive study of African elections and democratization. ...

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1. Introduction

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pp. 1-20

This book is about how and why political systems develop the different qualities that characterize regimes as democratic, semidemocratic, or authoritarian. Such differences in political systems have been an object of study at least since Aristotle formalized the distinctions among monarchy, oligarchy, and anarchy. ...

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2. On Democracy and Elections

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pp. 21-51

Studying frequencies of and trends in specific democratic qualities of elections obviates the need to make awkward decisions about the point at which an election becomes fully democratic or when real democracy has been attained in a particular country. ...

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3. Elections in Africa over Time

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pp. 52-70

Political liberalization in Africa has been interpreted in many ways since the world entered the post–Cold War era. Most scholarly accounts from the early 1990s triumphantly proclaimed a new era of democracy in Africa. ...

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4. The Self-Reinforcing Power of Elections

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pp. 71-98

This chapter tests established hypotheses about the development of democratic qualities of elections in Africa after so-called “founding” elections and develops a new hypothesis, about the self-reinforcing power of elections. ...

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5. The Causal Effects of Elections

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pp. 99-118

Chapters 3 and 4 reaffirmed Dahl’s (1989) assertion that electoral rights cannot be reduced to “mere procedures” and argued that the repetitive exercise of the formal procedures and practices of electoral cycles fosters the realization of political rights: ...

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6. Democratization by Elections?

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pp. 119-142

This chapter presents an analysis based on five alternative tests, the empirical results of which indicate that repetitive elections are a causal factor in democratization rather than, as often assumed, merely a reflection of democracy. ...

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7. Comparative Perspectives and Reflections

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pp. 143-161

This book analyzes elections as a core institution of representative democracy without presupposing that they actually work as an instrument of democracy. Sklar (1987) noted that most political systems combine both democratic and undemocratic features; Dahl (1971) argued that polyarchy was a matter of degree.

Appendix 1. Annual Overview of Elections in Africa, 1989–2003

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pp. 163-165

Appendix 2. Changes in Civil Liberties Rankings

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pp. 166-170

Appendix 3. About the Freedom House Civil Liberties Index

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pp. 171-173

Appendix 4. A Data Set on Elections in Africa

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pp. 174-194


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pp. 195-202


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pp. 203-221


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pp. 223-227

E-ISBN-13: 9780801889257
E-ISBN-10: 0801889251
Print-ISBN-13: 9780801883330
Print-ISBN-10: 0801883334

Page Count: 248
Illustrations: 7 line drawings
Publication Year: 2006

OCLC Number: 213305486
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Democracy and Elections in Africa

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Africa -- Politics and government -- 1960-.
  • Elections -- Africa.
  • Democracy -- Africa.
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