Democracy on the rise in Africa - ISS

2016-12-03 07:38

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Cape Town - Democracy has been rising steadily in Africa because citizens are getting tired of autocrats and want to have a say in how things are done, the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) has found.

"They want the ability to replace their leaders and the promise that this could translate into improved human development outcomes," the ISS said in a paper titled The Future of Democracy in Africa.

One of the measures of democracy has been the number of elections, with as many as 26 expected to be held across the continent this year alone, it said.

But, researchers caution, elections are not a sure sign that all is well, and increasingly, elections are associated with conflict.

It noted studies that found that incumbent African regimes had become "adept at interfering in the electoral process", such as in Zimbabwe, Uganda, Ethiopia, Kenya, Angola and Mozambique.

Democratisation can also increase ethnic tensions during competitive elections, as has been seen in South Sudan or Kenya.

The paper drew on data provided by Freedom House, the Economist Intelligence Unit, the Varieties of Democracy (V-Dem) and Polity IV.

The ISS said democracy generally operated better above certain levels of income and education, where institutions and the rule of law could keep the misuse and abuse of state institutions at bay.

75% in favour of term limits

In countries where there is a lower level of income, democracy is often fragile because the institutions and norms relied on for effective functioning were either absent or insufficiently developed.

The ISS noted that, while regular elections were on the increase in Africa, there were "worrying trends" of incumbents clinging to power, or blocking executive rotation or replacement. 

According to Afrobarometer, 75% of the African citizens they surveyed favoured executive term limits, but the continent boasts some of the longest serving leaders in the world. These include Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo of Equatorial Guinea (36 years) and Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe (35 years).

The ISS noted that neopatrimonialism was still a feature in African politics, and was found particularly in countries where the leadership consisted of national liberation forces.

In South Africa, a liberal Constitution, active civil society and independent judiciary had been unable to contain the ANC's ability to dispense patronage, the report found.

But the recent intra-ANC fissures and the emergence of new parties had, however, started to whittle away the dominance of the governing party and put pressure on the solidity of governance institutions.

But democracy, in a number of forms, was rapidly becoming the dominant type of governance globally, the ISS said.

Read more on:    iss  |  politics

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