Status-quo or Grievance Coalitions: The Logic of Cross-ethnic Campaign Appeals in Africa’s Highly Diverse States

Comparative Political Studies, Forthcoming

Posted: 14 Aug 2020

Date Written: July 10, 2020

Abstract

This paper develops a theory to explain how presidential candidates in Africa’s highly diverse states appeal across ethnic lines when ethnic identities are salient, but broader support is needed to win elections. I argue that election campaigns are much more bottom-up and salience-oriented than current theories allow and draw on the analysis of custom datasets of campaign appeals in Ghana, Kenya, and Uganda, as well as interviews with party strategists and campaign operatives in Ghana and Kenya to demonstrate clear patterns in presidential candidates’ cross-ethnic outreach strategies. Where ethnic salience is high, incumbents offer material incentives and targeted transfers to placate supporters, challengers fan grievances to split incumbents’ coalitions, and also-rans stress unity and valence issues in the hope of joining the winner. The research contributes to our understanding of parties’ mobilization strategies in Africa and further clarifies where and how ethnic divisions are politicized in competitive elections.

Keywords: African politics, ethnic politics, elections, election campaigns, campaign appeals

Suggested Citation

Gadjanova, Elena, Status-quo or Grievance Coalitions: The Logic of Cross-ethnic Campaign Appeals in Africa’s Highly Diverse States (July 10, 2020). Comparative Political Studies, Forthcoming, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3648100

Elena Gadjanova (Contact Author)

University of Exeter ( email )

Northcote House
The Queen's Drive
Exeter, Devon EX4 4QJ
United Kingdom

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