Why Do Opposition Parties Boycott Elections?
ELECTORAL AUTHORITARIANISM: THE DYNAMICS OF UNFREE COMPETITION, Andreas Schedler, ed., Lynne Rienner, 2006
Posted: 12 Sep 2007
In the present volume on electoral authoritarian regimes several contributors refer to Diamond's (2002) typology ranging from closed authoritarian regime to full democracy situating intermediate categories along the continuum between these endpoints; a degreeism conversant with Dahl in his formulation of polyarchy (1971, 2, 8; 1989, 316-7), later reinforced by scholars like Coppedge and Reinicke (1990), and Bollen and Jackman (1989, 612-8). Among these types, electoral authoritarian regimes are particularly important to study since they are the ones with greatest potential to develop into democracies. This chapter takes a closer look at the role of opposition parties in elections in such regimes. After operationalizing opposition behavior and identifying the electoral authoritarian regimes in Africa, the empirical analysis first explores if, and if so which, opposition strategies help electoral authoritarian regimes transform into democracies. Concluding that boycotting strategies tend to derail rather than promote democratization, the chapter then investigates the conditions under which opposition parties in electoral autocracies chose more beneficial strategies pointing to the role of the free and fairness of electoral processes. By implication, it seems that opposition parties sense when collaborative approaches are more likely to pay off in further reform and when hard-line autocratic rulers make boycott the most rational response. Finally, the lessons for Africa's political development are discussed in a comparative perspective.
Keywords: elections, Africa, democratization, participation, competition, opposition, boycott
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