Electoral Capture in Africa: Case Studies from Mozambique, Zambia, and Zimbabwe

With by-elections fast approaching and the 2023 general election beckoning, SIVIO Institute’s latest publication on electoral capture is quite timely. Read on to understand the election dynamics in Mozambique, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Electoral Capture in Africa: The Southern Africa Context

In recent years, concern has grown around the world about the diminishing quality and significance of elections in the quest for the sustenance and advancement of democratic governance (Fumunyoh, 2020; Luhrmann and Lindberg, 2019; Diamond, 2014, 2015: Carothers 2002). After a relatively prolonged period characterised by the global ascendancy of multiparty pluralism, citizen dissatisfaction with the outcomes delivered by competitive elections from one cycle to another has multiplied across different countries.

This growing dissatisfaction has been witnessed as much in countries with a long and unbroken history of competitive politics as in those whose history of (re)democratisation is more recent. At the same time as citizen discontent with the workings of democratic politics has increased, fuelling popular demands for substantial change in the way in which politics is organised, there has also been a manifest regression in many countries as a resurgent authoritarianism clothed in regular elections has put a brake on an earlier phase of incremental democratic advancement. This development has resulted in the conversion of countries that were hitherto well on a path of all-around politico-governance reform into what scholars have qualified as hybrid regimes. The contemporary global comparative governance picture has been further clouded by the ascendancy in world affairs of highly centralised political systems whose legitimacy has rested on the spectacular socio-economic performance they have delivered whilst consolidating political monopoly and limiting the civic space.

Evidence of widespread citizen disenchantment with mainstream competitive politics around the world includes, among others, worsening low voter turnout figures that are reflective of increased weariness with the mode of organisation of politics and the quality of representation and accountability. Political parties have lost members in large numbers and have lost the trust of large swathes of the populace. Elected parliamentary bodies have also increasingly ranked low in the esteem of the very citizens on whose behalf they are supposed to exercise a delegated sovereignty.

Citizens have watched with growing unhappiness as licit and illicit money has become a key determinant in framing the choice of candidates placed before the electorate. The consequence has been that even governments that claim legitimacy on the grounds of being popularly elected are actually propelled into office by a minority of citizens who bother to vote from among the minority who bother to register to vote. The decline in citizen trust in politicians and the governments they lead has been exacerbated by a series of socio-economic and governance challenges that have manifested themselves in the form of high levels of unemployment, political scandals in high places, the decline of the post-1945 welfare state, growing poverty and inequality, and an apparent inability by officials to get public policy and finances right despite prolonged cycles of austerity.

Read the full book here (6MB PDF)

Source: SIVIO Institute

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