Democratic Enculturation - Explaining African Dominant Party Systems

Dissertation Year Fellowship
Grant Year

My dissertation seeks a more nuanced understanding of African politics, particularly the dominant party systems across both democracies and autocracies concentrated in Southern Africa. As of 2020, twelve African countries are still ruled by the same political party that took power following national independence from colonial rule. A number of institutional explanations have been presented to explain party dominance—such as electoral manipulation, resource rents, and presidentialism—but none of these can account for public opinion findings that such ruling parties are simply more popular in most circumstances. I select and compare a democratic exemplar (Botswana) and an autocratic exemplar (Zimbabwe) for my fieldwork research. The project provides original contributions by establishing: 1) partisanship as a meaningful force on citizens’ attitudes, behaviors, and perceptions through experimental methods; 2) popular advantages for many ruling parties realized through historical circumstances, and 3) the importance of traditional and modern cultural forces in molding beliefs on political competition and democracy.