Divided societies, racial campaigning and electoral outcome

May 7, 2009 at 17:13 Leave a comment

Read what Reilly (2001) says about democratic competition in divided societies regarding ethnicity and electoral outcome: “Democratic competition is inherently difficult in such cases [of divided societies] because if the strong tendency towards politisation of ethnic demands, which in turn often leads to the growth of zero-sum, winner-take-all politics in which some groups are premanently included and some permanently excluded. Politicians in didvided societies face powerful incenties to play the ‘ethnic card’ and campaign align narrow sectarian lines, as this is often a more effective means of mobilising voter support than campaigning on the basis of issues or ideologies. A frequent result in multiethnic societies is that optimal outcomes for one player or group – electoral victory for one side on the back of a mobilised ethnic vote, for example – are accompanied by decidedly sub-optimal outcomes for the society as a whole (cf. Olson 1971), as identity politics becomes an increaslingly central part of the political game and the cycle of ethnic hostility and conflict unwins. The ‘bankruptcy of moderation’ (Rabushka and Shepsle 1972, 86) in such cases greatly undermines the prospects of peaceful democratic politics taking root.”


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This blog is about countries of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) regarding societies, political parties and policies. Most interest will be spent on the countries: Botswana, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zambia.

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