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Why have seemingly similar African countries developed very different forms of democratic party systems? Despite virtually ubiquitous conditions that are assumed to be challenging to democracy – low levels of economic development, high ethnic heterogeneity, and weak state capacity – nearly two dozen African countries have maintained democratic competition since the early 1990s. Yet the forms of party system competition vary greatly: from highly stable, nationally organized, well-institutionalized party systems to incredibly volatile, particularistic parties in systems with low institutionalization. To explain their divergent development, Rachel Beatty Riedl points to earlier authoritarian strategies to consolidate support and maintain power. The initial stages of democratic opening provides an opportunity for authoritarian incumbents to attempt to shape the rules of the new multiparty system in their own interests, but their power to do so depends on the extent of local support built up over time. The particular form of the party system that emerges from the democratic transition is sustained over time through isomorphic competitive pressures embodied in the new rules of the game, the forms of party organization and the competitive strategies that shape party and voter behavior alike.Read more
- Explains why some new African democracies have developed highly stable, institutionalized party systems while others have not
- Suggests a new approach to classifying authoritarian regime features and their legacies for democracy, based on the nature of ruling-party linkages to local power brokers
- Identifies mechanisms - institutional isomorphism - that make political parties within each national system more likely to resemble each other and the system as a whole more likely to endure over time
- Winner of the 2013–2014 African Politics Conference Group Best Book Award
Reviews & endorsements
"This well-designed comparative study helps to explain the structure of political party competition in Africa’s new democracies. The author shows how and why authoritarian precedents continue to shape institutional outcomes. Future analysts of party systems and democratic stability will have no choice but to take Riedl’s important and challenging findings into account."
Michael Bratton, University Distinguished Professor of Political Science and African Studies, Michigan State UniversitySee more reviews
"The most thorough, wide-ranging and important study of African political parties to date. If students of democratization and African politics want to know about African parties and party systems - and Reidl convincingly argues that they should - this is the place to start."
Nic Cheeseman, African Studies Centre, Oxford University
"In this model work of comparative-historical analysis, Rachel Beatty Riedl unravels an important puzzle in contemporary African politics: why party competition is more stable in some African democracies than others. In so doing, she advances an argument with truly global resonance: how democracies work in the present depends on how dictatorships tried to accumulate power and rewire authority in the authoritarian past. Authoritarian Origins of Democratic Party Systems in Africa is a major achievement."
Dan Slater, University of Chicago
"In this first-rate former dissertation, Riedl asserts that the nature of authoritarian regimes significantly influences the strength of ensuing democratic governments … An excellent bibliography and useful tables and figures add to Riedl's book's utility. Summing up: highly recommended."
C. E. Welch, Choice
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- Date Published: February 2014
- format: Hardback
- isbn: 9781107045040
- length: 286 pages
- dimensions: 229 x 152 x 21 mm
- weight: 0.59kg
- contains: 22 b/w illus. 28 tables
- availability: Available
Table of Contents
1. A theory of party system variation
2. Variations in party system institutionalization in Africa
3. Competing explanations: from colonial rule to new democratic institutions
4. Modes of authoritarian power
5. Authoritarian power and transition control
6. The emergence and endurance of the multiparty system
7. Africa and beyond: party systems in new democracies.
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