In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Elections and Democracy in the Caribbean

  • Introduction
  • Seminal Texts on Elections and Democracy in the Caribbean
  • Governance of Elections: Election Systems, Administration, Money, and Politics
  • Constitutional Development
  • Constitutional Reform
  • Governance, Corruption, Electoral Violence, and Democracy
  • Women, Political Activism, and Elections in the Caribbean
  • Elections, Public Opinion, and Voting Behavior
  • Analysis of Election Results
  • Elections, Political Economy, and Political Change
  • Elections, Race, and Ethnicity
  • Election Observation/Monitoring

Political Science Elections and Democracy in the Caribbean
Cynthia Barrow-Giles, Tennyson S. D. Joseph
  • LAST MODIFIED: 29 July 2020
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756223-0312


The works included in this compendium summary address themes relevant to the elections and democracy in the Caribbean region. The states that fall within the relevant “region” include the formerly English, French, and Dutch colonies in the Caribbean Sea and the South and Central American mainland, as well as the remaining English, French, Dutch, Danish, and Spanish colonies in the Caribbean. The aim of this bibliography is to provide readers and researchers with a broad overview of the kinds of theoretical, thematic, and empirical emphases that have framed the questions around which the electoral and democratic landscape of the Caribbean has been studied. For purposes of clarification, the collection does not address Caribbean democracy as a stand-alone isolated issue, but instead provides a survey of works on elections in the Caribbean through the lens of their interrelation with Caribbean democratic history, practice, culture, and constitutional development and institutional framework. (A survey of Caribbean democracy will require isolated treatment). Relatedly, while the article addresses the experience of the wider Caribbean, much of the emphasis on the intellectual output is on the works relevant to the English-speaking Caribbean. Where the experiences of the non-English countries have given rise to critical intellectual interventions, these are included to bring balance to the Caribbean story and to highlight commonalities and divergences, useful for researchers interested in comparative analyses. Following this introduction, the article is divided into eleven thematic sections, examining (1) seminal texts and works on Caribbean democracy and Caribbean elections, or works providing general data and analysis of large blocs of countries or works presenting pathbreaking theoretical treatment of critical issues in Caribbean democracy; (2) texts addressing the issue of the administration and governance of elections, inclusive of concerns with money and electoral financing; (3) texts concerned with constitutional development; (4) texts on electoral reform; (5) works addressing dysfunctionalities such as electoral corruption and electoral violence; (6) women and political participation; (7) public opinion and voting behavior; (8) works concerned with providing analyses of the results and outcomes of Caribbean elections in a largely statistical or data-capturing sense; and (9) works that have sought to offer analyses of Caribbean elections in relation to the broader political-economy of the region. Given the reality of ethnic division and the absence of racial and cultural uniformity in several countries of the Caribbean, one of the sections is devoted to (10) surveying some of the key works that have addressed the challenges of ethnicity, ethnic mobilization, and ethnic voting, and their implications for democratic development. The final section presents (11) the main works that have sought to address the very important question of election monitoring in the Caribbean.

Seminal Texts on Elections and Democracy in the Caribbean

The titles included in this section represent seminal and general background texts laying the basis for the study of elections in the Caribbean. They are seminal in two senses. Not only have these works been influential in shaping discussion on the study of Caribbean elections, but they have also been selected as “general” texts that provide basic and foundational information on Caribbean elections and electoral systems and democracy. The works in this section are therefore those that, first, are comprehensive texts providing historical data and analysis of Caribbean general election results covering all elections for all countries, and, second, those that have been recognized as having addressed aspects of the electoral and democratic landscapes of the Caribbean with such new insight and analytical depth that they have influenced future research on the question. In the first category fall Midgett 1983, Emmanuel 1992, and Nohlen 2005; in the second are Edie 1991, Fatton 2002, Simmonds 1987, and Spackman 1975—the latter two included here for their historical perspective on the evolution of Caribbean constitutional systems.

  • Edie, Carlene. Democracy by Default: Dependency and Clientelism in Jamaica. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner, 1991.

    Provides an important discussion of democracy in Jamaica beyond the understanding of Caribbean democracy within the assumptions of formal liberal-democratic practice. It locates the network of political patronage rooted in “clientelistic” relationships as an essential pillar for understanding the operationalization of electoral politics in the Caribbean. It offers a particularly Caribbean-centric theoretical perspective for understanding liberal democracy as actually practiced in the Caribbean. Copublished by Ian Randle (Kingston, Jamaica).

  • Emmanuel, Patrick. A. M. Elections and Party Systems in the Commonwealth Caribbean 1944–1991. Bridgetown, Barbados: Caribbean Development Research Services (CADRES), 1992.

    A foundational text for English-speaking Caribbean elections and party systems. It provides a survey of the 101 elections that took place between 1944 and 1991 and the 133 political parties and independent candidates who contested these elections. The work provides data on critical variables such as voter turnout, political party competition, and electoral outcomes over time.

  • Fatton, Robert. Haiti’s Predatory Republic: The Unending Transition to Democracy. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner, 2002.

    The book is important as a foundational and fairly comprehensive treatment of the historical evolution of Haitian democracy, from the collapse of the Duvalier dictatorship in 1986 to the political crisis under Jean Bertrand Aristide in 2001. The author analyzes the instability of Haiti’s democracy in the context of violent struggles to monopolize the few spaces of public power as routes to material enrichment.

  • Midgett, Douglas. Eastern Caribbean Elections, 1950–1982: Antigua, Dominica, Grenada, St. Kitts-Nevis, St. Lucia, and St. Vincent. Development Studies Series 13. Iowa City: Institute of Urban and Regional Research, University of Iowa, 1983.

    An important a survey of electoral patterns from the period of universal adult suffrage to the moment of the defeat of Caribbean left-leaning parties and socialist projects, which culminated with the US overthrow of the Grenada revolution in 1983. Useful study for tracing the rise and reversal of the electoral possibilities of the Eastern Caribbean Left between 1950 and 1985.

  • Nohlen, Dieter. Elections in the Americas: A Data Handbook. Vol. 1, North America, Central America and the Caribbean. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005.

    A foundational and seminal resource text. It provides a comprehensive treatment of elections, electoral systems, and the institutions governing elections in all the thirty-five countries of North and Central America and the Caribbean. The work provides detailed historical data on the evolution of electoral systems and the oversight bodies inclusive of the legislative frameworks governing the elections in the respective countries. Available online.

  • Simmonds, Keith C. “Political and Economic Factors Influencing the St. Kitts-Nevis Polity: An Historical Perspective.” Phylon 48.4 (1987): 277–286.

    DOI: 10.2307/274485

    While not a treatment of elections and democracy, this work provides useful background information on the evolution of colonial systems of administration leading up to the establishment of independent states. The work sets the basis for understanding the kinds of democratic institutions, and the political practices and political culture, of St. Kitts-Nevis and the English-speaking Eastern Caribbean as a whole. Available by subscription online.

  • Spackman, Ann, comp. Constitutional Development of the West Indies, 1922–1968: A Selection from the Major Documents. St. Lawrence, Barbados: Caribbean Universities Press, 1975.

    A very influential work for studying Caribbean constitutional developments. The compiler provides the key colonial documents that capture the evolution of West Indian polities from the 1922 commissions which gave birth to representative government to the 1968 documents giving rise to the first postcolonial independent constitutions and other semi-colonial arrangements.

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