New Academic Work on African “Power Sharing” from Carl LeVan at American University

I wanted to take time to commend to your reading list a forthcoming article entitled “Power Sharing and Inclusive Politics in Africa’s Uncertain Democracies” to appear in the January issue of “Governance: an International Journal of Policy, Administration and Institutions” available through Carl LeVan’s blog.

I won’t try to summarize in a blog post but let me offer some quotes that may intice you to take time to read the paper for yourself:

The power of elections to serve as a democratizing agent evaporates though when political authority can be negotiated independent of institutions. Without the possibility of political turnover, leadership selection yields neither uncertainty about outcomes nor institutional credibility for the process. Power sharing pacts in Kenya and Zimbabwe offer a cautionary tale because they serve as substitutes for political liberalization rather than engines for it. . . . .

. . . .

In other words, African cultural norms appear to embrace an expectation of democratic competition which empowers citizens. Elite bargains therefore drive a wedge between politicians and citizens. The international community exacerbates this preference gap when it provides an element of legitimacy externally that (corrupt) elections fail to bestow internally.

. . . .

. . . mandated inclusion formally weds governments to unsustainable levels of spending. Power sharing emerges as resource distribution, rather than an aggregating device for for formulating a shared policy agenda. . . .

. . . .

The international community shares a measure of complicity. It buttresses institutional capacity by praising decent elections in Ghana and Zambia and then it undermines institution building by renegotiating the rules or by relying on presumed virtues of self-proclaimed democrats. Julius Nyerere, independent Tanzania’s first president once said “Leadership cannot replace democracy.” Supporting African democracy now requires strengthening institutions with the capacity to formulate competing interests and the courage to respect the risks inherent in certain levels of competition. As donors weigh the competing foreign policy goals mentioned in the introduction, they should respect the differences between strengthening democracy and the post-9/11 predisposition for strengthening states. Post-election pacts oftern promote the latter at the expense of the former, and this distinction should not be lost in the discourse on institution building.

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