Effective Opposition Strategies: Collective Goods or Clientelism?
Democratization 18(5): 1193-1214
Posted: 21 Apr 2014
Date Written: October 2011
What makes opposition parties win elections in sub-Saharan Africa? The literature on voters in Africa tells us that ballots are won over by clientelism rather than by economic development, thus undermining the quality of collective goods provision and democratic accountability. We challenge this notion drawing insight from the December 2008 Ghanaian elections in which the National Democratic Congress (NDC) came back to power after eight years as opposition party. Using two surveys carried out before and after the elections, we analyze voters’ retrospective sanctioning and prospective selection of incumbent and opposition candidates for legislative office. Our findings show that vote buying and purely clientelistic appeals are insufficient to win elections and that Ghanaian voters value development when choosing political leaders and hold influential retrospective evaluations of performance. The evidence suggests that clientelism as an electoral strategy may be ubiquitous emerging democracies, but as voters gain greater experience in choosing political leaders and longer-term information about retrospective performance, its utility seems diminishes over time.
Keywords: democracy, democratization, elections, voting behavior, survey, Africa, Ghana, clientelism
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