WP88: Narrowing the legitimacy gap: The role of turnover in Africa's emerging democracies

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Working papers
Moehler, Devra and Staffan Lindberg

Democratic consolidation depends on common perceptions of institutional legitimacy among citizens aligned with governing and opposition parties. Elections always result in winners and losers, but if they also create subservient insiders and aggrieved outsiders, the future of the democratic system will be uncertain. This paper theorizes about how various qualities of elections (turnover, peaceful, opposition party acceptance, and free and fair) should reduce winner–loser gaps in perceived institutional legitimacy. We test our hypotheses using a hierarchical two-step statistical procedure to analyze three rounds of Afrobarometer micro-level data combined with national-level data on African elections between 1989 and 2006. We find that electoral turnovers alone have a moderating effect on the citizenry. Following alternations of power, winners and losers converge in their attitudes about their institutions, thus furthering the consolidation of democracy.