Authoritatively Democratic: The Functioning of Elections in Botswana's Dominant Party System
Burchard, Stephanie Marie
Jones, Mark P.
Doctor of Philosophy
Since 1991, multiparty elections have been held in almost every country in sub-Saharan Africa. These elections, however, have returned the same "dominant" political parties to office time and again. While dominant party rule is often associated with authoritarianism and its variants, many of the countries in sub-Saharan Africa that are operating under dominant party rule are by most other indicators considered to be democratic (freedom and fairness of elections, independent press, protection of civil liberties and rights, etc.). Regardless, many researchers argue that lack of party alternation at the national level precludes dominant party systems from being considered democratic. I contend that previous analyses focused on elections at the national level only and, thus, are unable to accurately comment on the democratic quality of elections in dominant party systems. Further complicating matters, the logic of electoral behavior under these types of systems is not well understood. It is not clear how, if at all, electoral outcomes under dominant party systems affect individual-level democratic satisfaction--something that is intimately related to a country's democratic stability. Finally, we do not know what factors affect individual-level vote choice under dominant party systems and how these compare with more mature, consolidated democracies. This project contributes to our understanding of electoral behavior under dominant party systems by systematically examining several facets of elections in Botswana, sub-Saharan Africa's longest tenured dominant party system. I conduct both within country analysis using data from the constituency level and between country comparisons to examine the relationship between partisan competition and electoral behavior in Botswana and several of its continental counterparts. I use a combination of electoral data and survey data draw a more complete picture of the voting landscape under a dominant party system. My main findings indicate that dominant party systems where truly democratic elections (free and fair) are held exhibit significant levels of electoral competition; exert a negligible effect on democratic satisfaction; and that some citizens, conditional on educational attainment, do engage in ideological voting. Together, this project depicts a more complex and nuanced electoral environment under a dominant party system than previous research has acknowledged.