P188 – Political Parties in Africa
8 July, 14:00-15:30

Cooper Ian / University of Cambridge


In industrial democracies, political parties are often regarded as a guarantor of political freedom. By contesting elections, they encourage citizens to regard democracy as morally legitimate. By representing constituents, they ensure that corruption is exposed. By recruiting leaders, they bring fresh blood into the political system. And by creating national coalitions, they mediate conflict and promote social cohesion. Yet Africa’s political parties have consistently failed to meet these expectations. Far from establishing norms of acceptable behaviour, they seem willing to intimidate opponents, politicise police forces, and deny electoral defeat. Far from building alliances capable of managing conflict, they seek short-term advantage by fanning the flames of ethnic hatred. And far from recruiting talent, they effect an endless circulation of elites in which discredited autocrats retain control over political decision-making. Indeed, most African parties have no research capacity, no ideological orientation, no bureaucracy, little in the way of non-state funding, and few paid-up members. Little wonder, then, that they have been called the ‘weak link in the chain of African democratisation’.

Les partis politiques en Afrique
Dans les démocraties industrielles, les partis politiques sont souvent considérés comme un garant de la liberté politique. En contestant les élections, ils encouragent les citoyens à considérer la démocratie comme moralement légitime. En représentant les mandants, ils veillent à ce que la corruption soit exposée. En recrutant des dirigeants, ils apportent du sang neuf dans le système politique. En participant à des coalitions nationales, ils tentent de s’imposer comme acteur dans la médiation des conflits et cherchent à promouvoir la cohésion sociale. Pourtant, les partis politiques de l’Afrique ne réussissent pas toujours à répondre aux attentes de leurs électeurs. Loin d’établir des normes de comportement acceptable, ils semblent prêts à intimider les opposants, politiser les forces de police, et refuser la défaite électorale. Loin encore de construire des alliances capables de gérer les conflits, ils cherchent davantage sur le court terme à attiser les haines ethniques. Rien d’étonnant, alors, qu’ils soient désignés comme étant le « maillon faible dans la chaîne de la démocratisation de l’Afrique ».

Paper 1

Maingraud-Martinaud Cyrielle / LAM, Sciences Po Bordeaux

Adjustments in party hegemony: politics of inclusion in semi-competitive contexts. The example of Tanzania

Tanzanian political system is characterized by the persistent dominance of the former single-party CCM (the Party of the Revolution) notwithstanding the introduction of multipartism in 1992. Despite electoral setbacks since 2010, it gathered 77% of the votes in the December 2014 local elections. In this paper, I will analyse the dynamics of party hegemony whose resilience lies in a continuously redefined equilibrium (Magaloni 2006).
Historically anchored mechanisms of social mobilisation in Tanzania have recently been challenged by emerging issues, such as the growing salience of identities in the country (Fouéré 2011). If the socialist ideal of ujamaa and the fear of the dilution of the national unity into particular identities are still largely mobilized by the CCM, it is done concurrently with an growing symbolic and institutional acknowledgment of the diversity of the country in terms of ethnicity, religion or gender.
My paper will analyse the evolutions of CMM’s politics of inclusion, with a focus on religion, in regard to what I assert to be continuous adjustments of its hegemony – for example in terms of mobilisation of religious symbols, association with religious leaders or balance in candidates nominations.
My argumentation will be supported by evidence from a field research conducted since October 2014 in Tanzania for my PhD, including interviews with CCM members and analysis of the party’s official documents.

Paper 2

Cooper Ian / University of Cambridge

Opposition party motivation in Namibia

In Namibia, opposition parties play a vitally important role in the processes by which groups are represented, institutions are legitimised and ruling elites held to account. Yet authors have so far neglected to conceptualise the objectives driving opposition behaviour. Political theorists from Downs to de Swaan have argued that all parties are driven by a desire either to influence policy, form a governing majority or capture ministerial office. This paper demonstrates that none of these three factors is adequate to explain party motivation in Namibia. It shows instead that most opposition parties are driven by the desire to capture a foothold in parliament and that, consequently, presidential elections are often regarded as a ‘waste’ of time and resources. This orientation is traced, first, to Namibia’s adoption of a distinct electoral system at each tier of government; second, to patterns of public sector remuneration; and third, to patterns of party funding. The resulting preoccupation with parliamentary representation has had two effects. First, Namibia’s dominant-party system is strengthened by opposition politicians’ lack of interest in mounting an effective challenge to it. Second, opposition parties have tended to mobilise electoral support, not around ‘cross-cutting’ cleavages or even around multi-ethnic ‘grand alliances’, but around appeals to ethnic minority identity.

Paper 3

LeBas Adrienne / American University (Washington, DC)

Authoritarian strategies and opposition outcomes: bridging francophone and anglophone Africa

How do we explain different patterns of opposition and protest across Africa’s regimes? How important are authoritarian strategies of rule in determining the strength or organization of protest down the road? In the bulk of the literature, authoritarian legacies shape democratic transitions by what they make impossible: constraints are placed on mobilization and the peaceful organization of societal demands, and accountability is undercut by inherited institutions that centralize and personalize power. This paper focuses instead on what might be instead termed the generative aspects of authoritarian rule. In order to understand the character and the scale of opposition challenges to ruling parties, we need not only to understand the basis of ruling party power – control over resources, effective internal party governance, “non-material sources of cohesion” – but also the ways in which authoritarian party-states created formal and informal institutions that would govern state-society interactions for decades to come. This paper examines the link between authoritarian strategies and the organizational resources available to other societal actors. It builds upon past in-depth research in Anglophone Africa and expands that lens to examine similar dynamics in Senegal, Cote d’Ivoire, and Cameroon.

Paper 4

Brosche Johan / Uppsala University

Kristine Hoglund and Hanne Fjelde / Uppsala University

“Old habits die hard”: electoral politics and violence in Kenya and Zambia

Post-independence Zambia and Kenya display fundamentally different trajectories in terms of election-related violence. While Kenya has experienced violent multi-party elections in 1992, 1997 and 2007/08, Zambian multi-party elections have remained largely peaceful. How can we understand this variation?
This paper focuses on the reintroduction of multiparty politics in Kenya (1992) and Zambia (1991) as critical junctures for Kenya’s violent trajectory and Zambia’s more peaceful development. In 1991 (and 1997) KANU, led by President Moi, orchestrated violence to disenfranchise opposition supporters. Why didn’t UNIP under Kaunda do the same in Zambia in 1991? A common explanation to Kenya’s violence is that multiparty politics have strengthened exclusive ethnic identity politics, which has resulted in more violence. We suggest that this needs to be understood within a larger time frame and with a combination of theoretical strands, including path dependence, institutional legacies and choice. We argue 1) that the conditions for exclusive ethnic identity politics existed already at the introduction of multi-party politics in Kenya, and 2) that violent practices have strengthened exclusive ethnic identity politics further. In contrast, Zambia did not have the same unfavorable conditions concerning exclusive ethnic identity politics as the transition began and was therefore able to prevent ethnic identity to become more politically salient when multi-party politics were introduced.

Paper 5

Rodrigues Sanches Edalina / University of Lisbon

The fortune of new parties in Africa: uncovering institutional (dis)incentives

Extant literature concurs that Third Wave party systems display lower levels of institutionalization when compared to party systems operating in more mature democracies. In the former, parties are frail institutions – e.g. weakly professionalized, lacking mass membership, core ideologies and funding – and party systems, because newer and less structured, seem to be more permeable to new political parties and to independent candidates’ incursions. However, in Africa the evidence is that former ruling parties of the pre-transition regime remain widely supported in the new democratic era, while opposition parties are for the most part feeble and fragmented. The proliferation of dominant parties and party systems is an illustration of these developments and rather suggest that African party systems remain as closed as they were before transition and, thus, that new parties face huge difficulties to reach parliament and government. But is this the case everywhere? Does party funding, electoral rules or form of govern matter? Where do new parties face the highest hurdles? The present paper contributes to answering these questions drawing on an original dataset including 19 countries in sub-Saharan Africa that have held competitive elections until 2011.This paper therefore adds to the literature of party system development in Africa focusing on a concrete topic – new parties entry – that to my knowledge has not deserved much attention.

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