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Policy paper

PP26: The viability of political opposition in Africa: Popular views

Policy Paper 26
Michael Bratton and Carolyn Logan 27 Aug 2015
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How competitive are African political regimes? Why do opposition parties often struggle to gain a foothold? In many countries, an incumbent ruling party dominates the political arena, essentially reducing elections to a one-horse race and limiting day-to-day governance to a closed shop. In these countries it is unclear whether opposition political parties are sufficiently viable – either alone or in electoral alliance – to amass enough votes to win and exercise political office.

This paper addresses the question of opposition viability from the perspective of ordinary African citizens. Do citizens desire real choices at the ballot box? Do they differentiate ruling and opposition parties, and if so, how? And how do they perceive the role of the political opposition in the long periods between elections? Do they wish opposition parties to play the classic democratic role of holding rulers accountable? And what explains the perceived viability of political opposition?

We offer preliminary answers to these questions with reference to early returns from 31,163 interviews conducted in the first 20 countries surveyed during Afrobarometer Round 6 (2014-2015).

Michael Bratton

Michael is a co-founder and board member at Afrobarometer

Carolyn Logan

Carolyn is the director of analysis and capacity building at Afrobarometer.