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Democratizing the Party: The Effects of Primary Election Reforms in Ghana

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  30 April 2021

Nahomi Ichino*
Emory University, Atlanta, GA, USA
Noah L. Nathan
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, USA
*Corresponding author. E-mail:


The recent expansion of the primary electorate by one of Ghana's major parties offers a rare opportunity to assess the effects of franchise extensions in contemporary new democracies. Using an original dataset on candidate entry and nominations, this article shows that expanding the primary electorate opened paths to office for politicians from social groups that were previously excluded, such as women and ethnic groups outside the party's core national coalition. The authors propose that democratizing candidate selection has two consequences in patronage-oriented political systems: vote buying will become a less effective strategy and the electorate will become more diverse. These changes, in turn, affect the types of politicians who seek and win legislative nominations. This suggests that a simple shift in who votes in intraparty primaries can be a key institutional mechanism for improving the descriptive representation of women and other under-represented groups.

Copyright © The Author(s), 2021. Published by Cambridge University Press

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