WP110: Looking toward the future: Alternations in power and popular perspectives on democratic durability in Africa

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Working papers
Cho, Wonbin and Carolyn Logan

Can democracy consolidate in electoral systems without power alternations? Using public attitude data collected by the Afrobarometer in 16 sub-Saharan African countries (2005-6), as well as country-level variables, this study examines how alternations in power resulting from electoral contests affect mass perceptions of the durability of democracy. Periodic alternation among power holders widens the pool of those who feel that they have a stake in the system, and reminds elected officials that they can be held accountable by voters. Multilevel analysis finds that the public perceives that a lack of alternation among power holders undermines democracy, lessening the chances that it will endure. This perception is more pronounced among those affiliated with the excluded opposition; those who prefer the ruling party are more sanguine about the prospects for a democratic future. This gap in perceptions of democratic durability narrows considerably in systems where one or more alternations have occurred.