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The Power of Elections : Democratic Participation, Competition and Legitimacy in Africa


  • Staffan I Lindberg

Summary, in English

This book is about elections and democracy in newly democratizing countries. Building on a new data set of 5,568 observations in 232 elections, it provides evidence elections have a casual impact on improving the quality of democracy in Africa in more than one way. The study demonstrates multiparty elections do not signal the end of transitions to democracy but rather foster liberalization and have a self-reinforcing power that promotes increasing democratic quality. Refuting a number of established hypotheses, the evidence also shows breakdowns typically occur after first elections and by third elections; these new regimes tend to survive.

The most important finding is that elections also facilitate the institution and deepening of de facto civil liberties in society. This finding is valid across diverse contexts thus opening up a new understanding of the role of elections as a causal variable in democratization. Corroborated by robust empirical data, the theory of the democratizing power of elections is a new addition to the literature on comparative democratization. Methodologically, the use of panel-group time-series analysis and a new kind of a lagged time-series analysis is also value added by this book. In policy terms, the results support the focus on elections by the international community as an efficient means of positive change, and refute pessimism about the export of institutions. In a nutshell, and elections will - more often than not - be the way to democracy.

Publishing year





Lund Political Studies



Document type



Department of Political Science, Lund University


  • Political Science


  • Political and administrative sciences
  • methodology
  • Africa
  • democratization
  • democracy
  • Elections
  • institutions
  • Statsvetenskap
  • förvaltningskunskap




  • [unknown] [unknown]


  • ISBN: 91-88306-46-1

Defence date

17 December 2004

Defence time


Defence place

Eden, Lund University


  • Joel Barkan (Professor)