In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Electoral and Party System Development in Sub-Saharan Africa

  • Introduction
  • Factors
  • Methodology

Political Science Electoral and Party System Development in Sub-Saharan Africa
David Backer, James D. Long
  • LAST REVIEWED: 03 June 2019
  • LAST MODIFIED: 31 August 2015
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756223-0126


Elections and political parties hold a central position in the study and practice of modern politics. Of course, they stand out as integral to the dimensions of participation, association, advocacy, and representation that are fundamental to democracy. They can also be present in certain forms amid settings lacking fully consolidated democracy, and their absence can characterize illiberal and autocratic regimes. This entire spectrum of circumstances is observed in sub-Saharan Africa, where elections and parties exhibit a complex and diverse history. The advent, evolution, features, and impact of elections and parties are heavily influenced by the environment in which they are situated, including different eras and regional, local, institutional, and other contexts. This backdrop organizes how related research has conventionally framed the study of elections and parties. In conjunction with the transition to multiparty elections in most of Africa in the early 1990s, studies on democratization have examined elements of electoral systems and institutions, including the management and observation of voting and the outcomes of electoral processes. A related area focuses on the nature and sources of variation in types of parties and party systems. The emergence of research on this array of intersecting topics reflects the difficult questions inherent in achieving better political, economic, and social outcomes and meaningful change across sub-Saharan Africa. Opportunities to expand scholarship arise with new cases of countries transitioning to democracy as well as the advent of new techniques to conduct rigorous empirical analyses. Contributors are increasingly in a better position to help fill large gaps in understanding that still persist about elections and parties in sub-Saharan Africa, while also reflecting constructively on their significance for general comparative theories and knowledge.


Those seeking to learn more about and conduct scholarly analyses of elections and party systems in sub-Saharan Africa are now in a far better position than they were in the early 2000s, let alone further back in time. The Internet represents the biggest catalyst for the publication of data and information, with African governments, media, civil society, and scholars embracing this medium as the norm for dissemination and transparency in most settings. With relative ease, one can quickly access and capitalize on an expanding volume of resources, including data sets, journals, reference books, online reference collections, and organizations.

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