Hostname: page-component-7d684dbfc8-zgpz2 Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2023-10-01T12:28:09.173Z Has data issue: false Feature Flags: { "corePageComponentGetUserInfoFromSharedSession": true, "coreDisableEcommerce": false, "coreDisableSocialShare": false, "coreDisableEcommerceForArticlePurchase": false, "coreDisableEcommerceForBookPurchase": false, "coreDisableEcommerceForElementPurchase": false, "coreUseNewShare": true, "useRatesEcommerce": true } hasContentIssue false

Pathways to Power in Authoritarian Regimes: Civil Service, Multipartyism and Legislative Selection in Cameroon

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 May 2021

Yonatan L. Morse*
Department of Political Science, University of Connecticut, Storrs, US
*Corresponding author. Email:


Legislatures are key institutions that stabilize authoritarian rule. However, less is said about the individuals who populate these institutions or the pathways that take them to power. This is an oversight, since how autocrats recruit reflects upon their institutional capacities and adaptation to changing circumstances. Specifically, recruitment is challenging when regimes lack robust ruling parties to cultivate partisan loyalists and during periods of multiparty elections when candidates must provide a higher degree of self-financing. This article examines these dynamics across the lifespan of Cameroon's authoritarian regime and introduces an original biographical data set of over 900 legislators between 1973 and 2019. The data show there is an increased proportion of businesspeople in the legislature, but also a possible emerging preference for former civil servants. The article argues that civil service recruitment pipelines substitute for the monitoring functions a party might serve, while simultaneously preparing candidates for the unique financing needs of elections.

Copyright © The Author(s), 2021. Published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of Government and Opposition Limited

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)


Arriola, LR (2009) Patronage and Political Stability in Africa. Comparative Political Studies 42(10), 13391362. Scholar
Arriola, LR (2012) Multi-Ethnic Coalitions in Africa: Business Financing of Opposition Election Campaigns. New York: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Art, D (2012) What Do We Know About Authoritarianism After Ten Years? Comparative Politics 44(3), 351373. Scholar
Barkan, JD (ed.) (2009) African Legislatures and the ‘Third Wave’ of Democratization. In Legislative Power in Emerging African Democracies. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner Publishers, pp. 132.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Boix, C and Svolik, MW (2013) The Foundations of Limited Authoritarian Government: Institutions, Commitment, and Power-Sharing in Dictatorships. Journal of Politics 75(2), 300316. Scholar
Branedle, T and Stutzer, A (2016) Selection of Public Servants Into Politics. Journal of Comparative Economics 44(3), 696719. Scholar
Cantens, T (2010) Is it Possible to Reform a Customs Administration? The Role of the Customs Elite on the Reform Process in Cameroon. UNU-WIDER Working Paper 2010/118.Google Scholar
Carey, JM and Shugart, MS (1995) Incentives to Cultivate a Personal Vote: A Rank Ordering of Electoral Formulas. Electoral Studies 14(4), 417439. Scholar
Collord, M (2018) The Legislature: Institutional Strengthening in Dominant-Party States. In Cheeseman, N (ed.), Institutions and Democracy in Africa: How the Rules of the Game Shape Political Developments. New York: Cambridge University Press, pp. 281303.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
DeLancey, M (1987) The Construction of the Cameroon Political System: The Ahidjo Years, 1958–1982. Journal of Contemporary African Studies 6(1–2), 324. Scholar
De Mesquita, BB, Smith, A, Siverson, RM and Morrow, JD (2005) The Logic of Political Survival. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
Diamond, L (1987) Class Formation in the Swollen African State. Journal of Modern African Studies 25(4), 567596. Scholar
Eyoh, D (1998) Conflicting Narratives of Anglophone Protest and the Politics of Identity in Cameroon. Journal of Contemporary African Studies 16(2), 249276. Scholar
Gandhi, J (2008) Political Institutions under Dictatorship. New York: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Hornsby, C (1989) The Social Structure of the National Assembly in Kenya, 1963–83. Journal of Modern African Studies 27(2), 275296. Scholar
Ichino, N and Nathan, NL (2012) Primaries on Demand? Intra-Party Politics and Nominations in Ghana. British Journal of Political Science 42(4), 769791. Scholar
Jensen, NM, Malesky, E and Weymouth, S (2014) Unbundling the Relationship between Authoritarian Legislatures and Political Risk. British Journal of Political Science 44(3), 655684. Scholar
Kilson, M (1970) Elite Cleavages in African Politics: The Case of Ghana. Journal of International Affairs 24(1), 7583.Google Scholar
Konings, P (1996) The Post-Colonial State and Economic and Political Reforms in Cameroon. In Jiberto, AF and Mommen, A (eds), Liberalization in the Developing World: Institutional and Economic Change in Latin America, Africa, and Asia. New York: Routledge, pp. 244265.Google Scholar
Konings, P (2010) The Politics of Neoliberal Reforms in Africa: State and Civil Society in Cameroon. Bamenda: Langaa Research and Publishing.Google Scholar
Koter, D (2017) Costly Electoral Campaigns and the Changing Composition and Quality of Parliament: Evidence from Benin. African Affairs 116(465), 573596. Scholar
Kroeger, AM (2020) Dominant Party Rule, Elections, and Cabinet Instability in African Autocracies. British Journal of Political Science 50(1), 79101. Scholar
Letsa, NW (2017) ‘The People's Choice': Popular (il)legitimacy in Autocratic Cameroon. Journal of Modern African Studies 55(4), 647679. Scholar
Le Vine, VT (1968) Political Elite Recruitment and Political Structure in French-Speaking Africa. Cahiers d’Études Africaines 8(31), 369389. Scholar
Liu, H (2018) The Logic of Authoritarian Political Selection: Evidence from a Conjoint Experiment in China. Political Science Research and Methods 7(4), 853870. Scholar
Lust-Okar, E (2009) Legislative Elections in Hegemonic Authoritairan Regimes: Competitive Clientelism and Resistance to Democratization. In Lindberg, SI (ed.), Democratization by Elections: A New Mode of Transition? Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, pp. 226245.Google Scholar
Magaloni, B (2006) Voting for Autocracy: Hegemonic Party Survival and its Demise in Mexico. New York: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Malesky, E and Schuler, P (2009) Paint-by-numbers Democracy: The Stakes, Structure, and Results of the 2007 Vietnamese National Assembly Election. Journal of Vietnamese Studies 4(1), 148. Scholar
Mattes, R and Mozaffar, S (2016) Legislatures and Democratic Development in Africa. African Studies Review 59(3), 201215. Scholar
Morse, YL (2019) How Autocrats Compete: Parties, Patrons, and Unfair Elections in Africa. New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
Ntamack, V (2011) The National Assembly and Democratic Change in Cameroon from 1990 to 2007. PhD dissertation, Political Science, Yaoundé: University of Yaoundé.Google Scholar
Olivier de Sardan, J-P (1999) A Moral Economy of Corruption in Africa. Journal of Modern African Studies 37(1), 2552. Scholar
Pepinsky, T (2014) The Institutional Turn in Comparative Authoritarianism. British Journal of Political Science 44(3), 631653. Scholar
Pinkston, AL (2016) Insider Democracy: Private Sector Weakness and the Closed Political Class in Democratic Africa. PhD dissertation, Political Science, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University.Google Scholar
Rabe-Hasketh, S and Skrondal, A (2012) Multilevel and Longitudinal Modeling Using Stata, 3rd edn. College Station, TX: Stata Press.Google Scholar
Reuter, OJ and Turovsky, R (2014) Dominant Party Rule and Legislative Leadership in Authoritarian Regimes. Party Politics 20(5), 663674. Scholar
Svolik, MW (2012) The Politics of Authoritarian Rule. New York: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Szakonyi, D (2018) Businesspeople in Elected Office: Identifying Private Benefits from Firm-Level Returns. American Political Science Review 112(2), 322338. Scholar
Takougang, J (2004) The Demise of Biya's New Deal in Cameroon, 1982–1992. In Mbakou JM and Takougang J (eds), The Leadership Challenge in Africa: Cameroon Under Paul Biya. Trenton: Africa World Press, pp. 95–122.Google Scholar
Treux, R (2014) The Returns to Office in a ‘Rubber Stamp’ Parliament. American Political Science Review 108(2), 235251. Scholar
Weghorst, KR (Forthcoming) Activist Origins of Political Ambition: Opposition Candidacy in Africa's Electoral Authoritarian Regimes. New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
Wintrobe, R (1998) The Political Economy of Dictatorship. New York: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Woldense, J (2018) The Ruler's Game of Musical Chairs: Shuffling During the Reign of Ethiopia's Last Emperor. Social Networks 52, 154166. Scholar
Wright, J (2008) Do Authoritarian Legislatures Constrain? How Legislatures Affect Economic Growth and Investment. American Journal of Political Science 52(2), 322343. Scholar
Supplementary material: File

Morse supplementary material

Morse supplementary material

Download Morse supplementary material(File)
File 104 KB