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Dominant Parties as Governments in Southern Africa

by Dennis Zaire

Their changing nature and its implications for democracy and democratic consolidation

Electoral politics have always been an important attribute of measuring citizens’ involvement in political processes in southern Africa. However, the divergent nature of regimes and governance systems has always made it difficult to measure and assess whether an emerging pattern can tell us anything about the process to and from democratic consolidation in the subregion. This is because, in southern Africa, only four countries – Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Zambia – have held elections under conditions that can be considered generally free and fair. Zimbabwe, on the other hand, has held elections on a regular basis, but they are increasingly seen as neither free nor fair and remain heavily contested. Lesotho’s fractured politics mean that elections are held irregularly, while in Eswatini the political landscape remains dominated by the monarchy. Zambia, which has a history of both authoritarianism and fractured democratic politics, oscillates politically between competitive authoritarianism and electoral democracy (Levitsky & Way, 2012). The political fortunes and continued party dominance of former liberation movements as governments in Angola, Namibia, Mozambique, South Africa and Zimbabwe currently face unprecedented challenges from opposition parties. Indeed, the particular case studies of each of these countries reveal interesting dynamics for electoral politics and party system development and sustainability in southern Africa.

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Dennis Zaire

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Senior Programme Manager +264 61 225-568 +264 61 225-678


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