What is interesting on Southern African democratic elections?

October 14, 2010 at 17:32 Leave a comment

Please read {…} as foodnote.

Only a few states in Southern Africa have continued with democracy since the first wave of democratisation, such as in Botswana in 1966. During the Third Wave of Democratization (Huntington 1991) in the early 1990s the number of Southern African democracies increased. Within a time frame of five years, different types of democratisation occurred throughout the sub-Sahara region. {Tetzlaff (1997: 30) distinguishes different types of systematic change: bloßer Systemwandel and abrupter Systemwechsel. These can be understood as rather smoothly changes and rigorous systematical exchanges.} For example, triggered by an acute economic crisis, civil protest fostered democratisation von unten in Zambia (Tetzlaff 1997: 35). Under pressure from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries such as Malawi subordinated von außen (Tetzlaff 1997: 35) to democratic transition implementing democratic elections in return for loans. Democratisation by negotiations, as seen in Mozambique (Tetzlaff 2004), was another way of transforming political systems. {Bratton and Walle (1994: 455, Foodnote 4) “‘prefer to speak of three routes — top-down, bottom-up, and negotiated political change”‘ or “‘supervised peace agreement”‘ (Bratten/Walle 1997: 118) in contrast to Huntington’s (1991) classifications of “‘transformation, replacement, and transplacement”‘.} However, neopatrimonial countries turned away from the widely propagated plebiscitary one-party system (Mozambique), competitive one-party system (Malawi, Zambia) or settlers oligarchy (Namibia, South Africa), which established in the 1960s and 1970s (Bratton/Walle 1997: 77-82) or even earlier, during colonialism (LaPalombara and Weiner 1966) to a Multi-party Polyarchy or at least limited Polyarchy with a Multi-party system (Temelli 1999: 270).

The wave has not successfully reached all of sub-Sahara African. Bratton and Walle (1997: 116-122) provide an overview about the transitions paths. {According to Bratton and Walle (1997: 116-122) the majority of successfully transformed countries went through political protests (1988-1992), liberalising reforms (finished in 1992) ending in democratic elections (by no later than 1994) and a minority has started straight from the period of reforms, but 26 of 42 sub-Saharan African states failed at one stage, and two states fully resisted transformation process.}
With strong focus on the continental southern Africa, the exceptions include the blocked transition in Angola and flawed transition in Swaziland (Bratton/Walle 1997: 120). Lesotho’s democracy “‘remains fragile despite apparently successful electoral reforms”‘ (Fox and Southall cited by Lemon 2007). For years, the democracy established by Zimbabwe in 1983 has been referred to as “‘sorely tarnished”‘ (Pottie; Sachikonye; Southall summarised by Lemon 2007).

Different and even unique (Lemon 2007: 826) historical backgrounds in respect to colonialism, post-colonialism and independence, the transformation to a Polyarchy promotes competition and participation (Dahl 1971) in Botswana, Mozambique, Malawi, Namibia, South Africa and Zambia (Temelli 1999). Both dimensions, competition and participation, are constitutional legitimised and institutionalised within the framework of a voting system.

The voting system divides the countries into two groups. In Mozambique, Namibia and South Africa, the voting by proportional representation (PR) prevails. In Botswana, Malawi and Zambia, first-past-the-post (FPTP), a system of relative majorities, was implemented.

According to Nohlen (2004: 146) PR is accompanied by seven consequences: (1) prevention of a two-party system, (2) no one-party majority, (3) no steady governments, (4) a necessity for coalition governments, (5) no accountability for political decisions, (6) the possibility of balanced representation of society in parliament, and (7) opportunities for new political groups.

The results of the past three elections in Mozambique show an increase in the success of the Frente de Libertaco de Mozambique (FRELIMO), which gained an absolute majority in the 2004 elections. Pre-dominant {Classification of party systems by Sartori (2005).} parties have ruled in South Africa and Namibia since 1994. While South Africa’s African National Congress (ANC) achieved a two-thirds majority, Namibia’s South West Africa People’s Organisation (SWAPO) was able to win a three-quarters majority in 2004. None of the three countries has a significant parliamentary opposition and the “‘effective”‘ number of parties in the parliament is almost one. {The “‘effective”‘ number of parties can be measured with the method of Laakso and Taagepera (1979).}

This suggests that the theoretical advantages of PR (Nohlen 2004: 144) — for example, preventing one dominating single party and a necessity for coalition governments — have not materialised in these three countries.

On the other hand, FPTP is likely to be implemented in rather homogeneous societies, generally resulting in a two-party system (Nohlen 2004: 404). In theory, this voting system has exactly the opposite effects and consequences for party systems and governmental constellations, as FPTP is the antithesis of PR (Nohlen: 2004).

The Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) has governed that country with an undisputed absolute majority since the year of independence even though this majority has been consistently decreased. Party mergers affected the parties in Zambia.
For example, in March 2006, the United Democratic Alliance (UDA) emerged from three independent parties.
As a result of previous elections, coalitions govern in Malawi. Since the party spectrum in Malawi is strongly diversified, the Movement for Multi Party Democracy (MMD) was forced to ally with a coalition partner after the elections in 2001.

Therefore, it is suggested that for FPTP, the theoretical consequences (Nohlen 2004: 144) — for example, two party system and no need for coalitions — have not materialised in these three countries.

The results for both party systems are either a coalition government displacing the former government or a one-party government is continuously in place and dominating without a chance for opposition parties to govern.

This conclusion after four elections (by 2010) could request electoral engineering in order to meet Nohlen’s consequences in the future or it means that Nohlen’s consequences of Western democracies are not applicable for the past elections.
Knowing “‘that electoral systems are at least potentially variable and are not complete constant, but it would be unrealistic to suggest that they easily malleable and manipulable”‘ and “‘major changes — especially shifts from plurality [FPTP] to PR and vice versa — are extremely unlikely”‘ (Lijphart/Grofman 1984: 12) {Lijphart and Grofman (1984) are summarzing Nohlen’s fazit on West-European democracies. On the one hand, it might be questionable to use Western European theories for the African context, but one the other hand, it would be questionable to argue that a major shift from one electoral system to another, would be more likely for African political systems.}, the following analyses on popular interests and parties are in order to understand reasons for the outcomes of the past elections — the success and failure of parties.

A common macro-sociological approach for scientific research on societies was established by Lipset and Rokkan (1967).
Their \textit{cleavages} of four different pairs of sociological groups, segments of a society, provided the general basis for further scientific research on African nations (Berg-Schlosser/Siegler 1988; Berg-Schlosser 1979, 1992, 2008; Temelli 1999; Teztlaff 2002; Erdmann 2007a, 2007b; Basedau 2003; Basedau/Stroh 2008; Grabow/Köllner 2008). This dissertation uses cleavages as independent variables for both, the society in terms of political cleavages and parties in terms of cleavage based parties.

Competition and participation in democratic elections serve as a hinge for the society and the parties. Political cleavages compete for representation and integration within parties and parties compete for governmental power, while representing particular needs and integrating different interest groups along cleavages. Analysing the society and the parties of a country based on the cleavage concept delivers arguments for the success and failure of parties of a society.

The analysis of national Census data sets mainly focus on demography, class and ethnicity (in particular: age, income, status level, settlement region, race, religion and language). Each group includes several subcategories. For example, the cleavage settlement region can be subcategorised by urban and rural, and the cleavage religion can be subcategorised by Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu and African traditionalism, as well as atheism. The results of the cross-cutting Formulae create conclusions concerning political cleavages with a primary or secondary role for popular interests and categorize political cleavages as heterogeneous or homogeneous on national and municipal levels.

Concerning parties the cleavage analyses measure the core competences {Tetzlaff (2002: 244-245) summarizes Beyme (1997), Monga (1997), Schmidt (1997), Erdmann (1999), Temelli (1999), Moegenburg (2002) and Emminghaus (2003) and points out five core competences of parties: (1) Representation of particular needs and interests along cleavages; (2) Integration of interest groups or ethno-cultural supporters by party programmes/manifestos and party symbols or by securing loyalty; (3) Legitimation to claim power to the public with manifestos for welfare and recruiting of appropriate representatives; (4) Constructive criticism against the political rival (no matter government or opposition); (5) Recruiting and educating alternative elites for state and government in case of government participation.} of parties on the basis of the party manifesto.

Professionalized voter parties emanated from cleavages or topical issues with structural effects, follow defined target voter groups to unify as many voters as possible within these groups from one election to another. Strategies for elections are created similarly for each party and committed in party manifestos. The contents may differ from party to party as well as the contents from election to election. The manifesto can be seen as a base for argumentation on different communication channels concerning political tasks during electoral campaigning.

The saliency theory, working with the party manifesto approach, cannot explain voting behaviour regarding individual political solutions, but it illustrates in whom the voter sees as competent to solve issues (Petrocik 1996: 830). Calling voter attention to topics where a party might profit leads to party competition (Budge/Farlie 1983: 269). These topics take into account relevant political cleavages and their expectations on political actors.

Party policy positions are based on common policy dimensions such as the economy, social, environment or left-right, and regard the manifesto contents. The results of calculation determine strategic positions for each party relative to the competitors. The left-right categorisation of parties and people’s self placement of left or right in terms of politics can be seen as a common understanding in the world, with the exception of China (Beyme 2000).

Each election shows the success and failure of strategic position placement or re-placement of a party. Additional calculations of the theoretical share of the total adult electorate are possible and can be compared with the mobilised adult electorate for each party.

The relevance of the socio-economical distribution in each district of a country was shown by Lemon (2007) in his cross-national study of five of the six country cases (excluding Zambia) in the 2004 elections, where he identified the heartland of the political parties. Contemporary the cleavage theory needs to distinguish actual conflicts of interests (or concrete issues), from overall long-term interests (Radtke 1979). While issues can develop historical importance, most of the issues take place in actual political disputes. Therefore, the coherence between party politics and party manifestos, including historical impact, is not indisputable, but there are little objections to using the party manifesto approach with modifications as well working instruments for the young democracies of the Third Wave of Democratisation {Beyme 2000: 99 underlines the young East-European democracies in the context of the party manifesto approach.}.

The following three examples, Malawi, Botswana and South Africa, illustrate the efficacies of the societies on political parties in the latest history of Southern African democracies.

Example Malawi
The Malawian party system shows a situation of short-term divergence as a multi-party system emerged for one legislative period (2004-2009). This period represented eight parties in the Malawian parliament doubling the amount of parties. It seemed that multi-party representation based on regional parties (Lemon 2007: 832) is equal to the multi-political interests of the Malawian society. The latest election in 2009 resulted in a three-and-a-half party system, similar to ten years before.

Example Botswana
The consistently governing Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) lost a significant voter share of ten percent from the election in 1989 (64 percent) to the election in 1994 (54 percent), but was able to draw few additional shares of votes in the 1999 election, decreased again down to 51 percent (2004) and relaxed with additional 2 percent in 2009 (53 percent).
Beginning in the 1990s, the regional wind of change seemed to force a continuous decrease in votes for the BDP in the long-term perspective, while the votes for the opposite parties increase lately. The party system changed from a two party system to a two-and-a-half party system. Nevertheless of two small share increases, the long-term trend let expected that the BDP will lose the absolute majority in one of next elections.

Homogeneity on the municipal level (Lemon 2007) seems to extend to the national level and changes the party system.
Emminghaus (2003) sees Botswana in a process of change from a primordial-territorial conflict to a functional conflict, where opposing parties take profit from the increasing urban middle class.

Example South Africa
Founded in 1912 as a black movement against white colonialism and united in the fight against the Apartheid regime for over 80 years (Mandela 1994), the African National Congress (ANC) took over governmental power in 1994 and has been governing since. As a result of two fundamentally different political moves within the ANC, Thabo Mbeki and his entourage left the ANC after loosing the ANC party leadership (Kessel 2007) and resigning his presidentship of South Africa (Perras 2008). In November 2008, the ANC split into the ANC and the new Congress of the People (Cope) {Using the term “‘new”‘ for the Cope today is correct insofar as the Cope is an independent party contrary to the Congress of the People (Cope) held in 26-27 June 1955 outside Johannesburg attended by 3,000 delegates of Apartheid resistance groups including the ANC, Indian Congress, Coulored People Organisation and Congress of Democrats (Giliomee/Mbenga (2007: 328-329).} (Grill 2008). The general elections in April 2009 have shown the significance of this event for the ANC and the South African party system. The Cope became the second opposition party with the Democratic Alliance (DA) which also increased its share of the votes and the ANC lost its two-thirds majority. A significant part of ANC members and voters seem to favour different aspects and policies. Policy positions in which the ANC and the Cope are strongly disagree, can be seen as the main reason for the party’s split. Additionally, an assumption on the race cleavage can be pointed out. According to an almost exclusively black ANC membership and voter alignment, the event of the party’s sub-categorize the political cleavage race.

The experiences of the past 15 years regarding trends and latest events seem to result from the changing political interests of societies. Taking this into account parties change to fulfil functions in order to become nominated for the parliament and in the best case the governing party. The electoral outcomes taken from four elections assist in drawing realistic scenarios about the future of the party system within the frame of the theoretical consequences of voting systems.


Entry filed under: PhD, Southern Africa. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , .

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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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