Do Electoral Systems Affect How Citizens Hold Their Government Accountable? Evidence from Africa
Abstract: This paper asks whether a country’s choice of electoral system affects the methods citizens use to try and hold their government accountable. A large body of literature suggests that electoral system type has an impact on voting behaviour, but little work has been done so far looking at other forms of democratic accountability, such as contacting an elected representative and protesting. Using Round 6 Afrobarometer data, we find that the type of electoral system does indeed have a significant impact on these other forms of participation. Citizens in PR systems are significantly more likely to protest than those in majoritarian ones, while those in majoritarian systems are more likely to contact their elected representatives. We argue that this is because the connection between citizens and representatives in majoritarian systems is clearer, closer and more responsive, making contact an effective strategy and providing an efficient “safety valve” when citizens want to hold their government to account. The lack of a similar connection in most PR systems, in contrast, leads citizens to turn to protest with greater regularity.
The Consequences of Partisanship in Africa: Cognitive Lens or Tribal Straitjacket?
Abstract: The paper provides evidence that partisan identification exists in African polities, though its extent varies considerably across countries. Moreover, we find that partisanship helps people organize their political world. It shapes the way they vote, and also exercises important influences on citizens’ propensity to become involved in a wide range of democratic politics, whether during or between elections. Finally, we produce several nuggets of evidence which suggest that partisanship in Africa constitutes, at least for many voters, a ‘standing choice’ rather than a fixed identity. That is, while voter support for ruling parties is shaped by ethnicity (and other demographic background factors), it is not determined by them. Voter evaluations of the overall direction of the economy, national economic trends, and government responsibility for those trends, matter. Moreover, aggregate levels of identification with the ruling party, or what other scholars have called ‘macropartisanship’, have undergone important, and in some cases dramatic, shifts over time. And in some cases, partisanship moves in close correlation with shifts in voter sentiment. All of this should be seen as evidence of an important, little-appreciated dimension of vertical accountability in Africa’s multi-party regimes.
The 2019 South African Elections: Incumbency and Uncertainty
Abstract: The 2019 South African elections marked the country’s sixth iteration of free and fair electoral contests since its democratisation in 1994. Although the outcome gives the African National Congress (ANC) yet another five-year mandate, the party has not gone unchallenged at the polls. It registered its lowest national vote share since the transition, a major concern for the party of liberation. The most recent contest also demonstrates the resilience of the main opposition party, the Democratic Alliance (DA), and the continued upward trajectory of its closest rival, the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF). In this article, we analyse available survey data on South Africans’ attitudes and offer some empirical answers to account for the election results. We argue that race continues to feature prominently in electoral decision-making but it does so in ways that deviate slightly from conventional wisdom. Further, we put forth an explanation that the parties’ leaders played a central role in shaping citizens’ voting behavior, especially among their own partisan supporters.
Mapping State Capacity in Africa: Scope, Strength and Reach, with Robert Mattes and Vinothan Naidoo, 2020.
Clients or Partisan Activists? Party Membership and Mobilization in Africa, with Sarah J. Lockwood, 2020.
Organizing for Success: The Effect of Intra-Party Democracy on Local Level Party Presence, with Sarah J. Lockwood, 2021.
WORKS IN PROGRESS
Patrons or Agents? African MPs in their Home Districts, with Robert Mattes.
The Effects of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) on Black South Africans’ Political Behaviour, with Robert Nyenhuis.
The Myth of the Paper Tiger? Judicial Independence in Africa, with Chris Oxtoby.
The South African Judiciary, with Chris Oxtoby.
POLICY PAPERS AND REPORTS
Public Confidence in the Judiciary: A South African Perspective, with Chris Oxtoby, 2020, Judicial Education and Training (7). PDF
Africa’s Digital Divide and the Promise of E-Learning, 2020, Afrobarometer Policy Paper No. 66. PDF
Democratic dividend: The Road to Quality Education in Africa, with Lulu Olan’g, 2020, Afrobarometer Policy Paper No. 63. PDF
Police in Zimbabwe: Helping hand or iron fist?, with Nicholas Simpson, 2019, Afrobarometer Dispatch No. 296. PDF
Bounded Autonomy: What Limits Zimbabweans’ Trust in their Courts and Electoral Commission?, 2018, Afrobarometer Policy Paper No. 52. PDF
Ill-prepared? Health Care Service Delivery in Zimbabwe, with Thomas Isbell, 2018, Afrobarometer Dispatch No. 240. PDF
Trends in Attitudes Toward Foreigners in South Africa, 1997-2011, 2015, Afrobarometer Dispatch No. 44, 2015. PDF