How should international actors respond to evidence of a stolen election?

In Power Sharing and Inclusive Politics in Africa’s Uncertain Democracies, A. Carl LeVan argues that traditional methods of building inclusive and consociational institutions can undermine accountability and democracy.

Building inclusive institutions is usually thought to be an important element in building stable democracies.  Arend Lijphart famously advocated for divided societies to implement a form of consocialtional democracy in ethnic cleavages are managed by grand coalitions of elites who wield mutual veto points in decision making.  Juan Linz advocated against presidential systems, attributing the shorter regime life of Latin American nations to their majoritarian nature.  Africa, it would seem, with its colonial era borders, would be the perfect setting to measure the impact of such institutions.  While many African institutional designs are more a result of colonial heritage – single member districts for former British colonies, two-round elections for French – LeVan argues the continent has developed both formal and informal mechanisms for governing across ethnic cleavages.

LeVan believes, however, that consociational and powersharing models, which were built by theorists examining Latin American “pacting,” are less relevant in modern day Africa.  Powersharing governments make it difficult for voters to evaluate government performance (which party is responsible for the state of the country?)  and nearly impossible to punish bad governance.  It also can create inefficient spending if it includes doling out useless ministries to placate power blocks.  While democracy promoters have pushed for strong institutions, LeVan continues, they have subsequently undermined them by legitimating “rule changes” to accommodate election losers.  Powersharing agreements after flawed elections like those in Zimbabwe and Kenya have set a standard for ignoring the results of an election in the name of forming an inclusive government.   LeVan goes on to say that exporting systems designed for post-conflict environments to areas where democratic values are more ingrained, only decreases accountability and undermines the legitimacy of the government.

I’m not as familiar with some of the countries that LeVan mentions but I think his main point deserves serious consideration.  Lebanon’s method of extreme powersharing may help avoid civil conflict (most of the time)  but in part because of the problems that LeVan mentions: mutual veto points help avoid conflict by making sure less gets done; this essentially makes control over government worth less.   While diluting the value of government has an understandable benefit if conflict mitigation is your number one priority,  it’s probably not the best way to develop truly democratic institutions.

Posted on May 7, 2011, in Elections, Electoral Systems and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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