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African Elections as Vehicles for Change

From: Journal of Democracy
Volume 21, Number 4, October 2010
pp. 139-153 | 10.1353/jod.2010.0019



Although government defeats are extremely rare in multiparty Africa, little analysis has taken place of the conditions under which ruling parties lose power. This article documents a remarkable pattern that has so far received little comment: throughout the continent opposition parties are almost four times more likely to win elections when the sitting president does not stand. Using a comparative data-set and examples from Kenya, Ghana, and Sierra Leone, the article explains the three main reasons that open-seat elections are more likely to lead to political change, and considers the relationship between term-limits, turnover, and democratic consolidation.