Election as Measure of Democracy Essay

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Elections in Africa: Are they Instruments of Democracy? Wonbin Cho University of Kentucky wonbin.cho@uky.edu Paper prepared to present at a workshop at American University, April 24-25, Washington, D.C. 1 Abstract In what ways do elections serve as instruments of democracy in Africa? Based on a multi-level analysis of Afrobarometer survey data from 17 sub-Saharan African countries, my study examines the influence of citizens’ perceptions of competitive elections (accountability and representation) on their confidence in African parliaments. While majoritarian electoral systems are designed to promote citizens’ direct control over policymakers, proportional representation (PR) systems are expected to increase the scope of representation of all factions of society. My study provides an empirical foundation for these expectations in Africa. Controlling for a variety of individual- and macro-level characteristics, I find that citizens’ perceptions of members of parliament (MPs)’ representation have a positive and significant effect on their trust in the legislature. In addition, my results suggest that the effect of political representation is mediated by electoral systems. Citizens in countries with PR systems are much more likely than those in majoritarian electoral systems to show positive attitudes toward the parliament when they feel elections enhance political representation. These findings have important implications for democratic learning and democratic development in Africa. 2 Introduction The Issue of how citizens influence policymakers is central to an understanding of democratic political system. We normally agree that a democracy should allow the people to participate in policy making. Elections are one of the ways to establish connections between citizens and policymakers and by elections citizens encourage the policymakers to pay attention to their

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