Incumbency Disadvantages in African Politics? Regression Discontinuity Evidence from Zambian Elections
57 Pages Posted: 6 Jan 2014 Last revised: 24 Apr 2014
Date Written: January 2014
Are incumbents disproportionately advantaged at the polls relative to non-incumbents in Africa’s emerging democracies? The prevailing wisdom characterizes African politics as predominantly ‘neopatrimonial’ and ‘semi-authoritarian’, whereby incumbents systematically manipulate the electoral process to their own advantage. In stark contrast to this perspective, this regression discontinuity study finds significant incumbency disadvantages in Zambia’s local government elections and no discernible incumbency advantages at the parliamentary level over the period 1991-2011. Furthermore, the strength of these disadvantages appears to be closely associated with higher levels of voter information, poorer economic conditions, and a structural shift in party competition. These results effectively expand the incumbency effects literature into the African context and offer an important contrast to the conventional wisdom on African politics.
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