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Working paper

WP92: Ethnically dominated party systems and the quality of democracy: Evidence from sub-Saharan Africa

Robert A. Dowd and Michael Driessen 1 Jan 2008 Benin, Botswana, Cabo Verde, Ghana, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe
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This paper is devoted to assessing whether and how the extent to which party systems are ethnicallydominated affects the quality of democracy. Using Afrobarometer survey data, we devise a new indexfor measuring levels of ethnic voting (CVELI) and statistically test its relationship to measures of thequality of democracy. From sub-Saharan Africa, we find evidence to suggest that the extent to whichparty systems are ethnically dominated does negatively affect certain measures of the quality ofdemocracy. Where all or most political parties are ethnically based parties, there is less respect forcivil liberties, elections are perceived to be less free and fair, people are less satisfied with the delivery of public goods and report a greater degree of corruption in government. We conclude that, all elsebeing equal, the quality of democracy may be enhanced by implementing integrative electoral systemsand promoting economic and social conditions that are likely to decrease the supply of, in addition tothe demand for, ethnically based parties.

Robert Dowd

Robert A. Dowd is Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Notre Dame.

Michael Driessen

Michael Driessen is a PhD candidate in the Department of Political Science at the University of Notre Dame.