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Working paper

WP49: Electoral institutions, partisan status, and political support: A natural experiment from Lesotho

13 Apr 2015

Does the introduction of proportionality in electoral systems help to boost popular evaluations of democracy? This article traces shifts over time in political support, using Afrobarometer data to measure mass satisfaction with democracy and public trust in political institutions in Lesotho. We find that electoral reforms have both direct and indirect effects. In the aggregate, Lesotho's transition from a majoritarian to a mixed electoral system is directly associated with increased levels of citizen support for the country's state and regime. Importantly, however, formal institutions have only indirect effects at the individual level, where a person's informal partisan status -as a member of a winning majority or losing minority- mediates the impacts of institutional change.