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WP/114 Populist Strategies in African Democracies

Drawing on insights from Latin America, this paper examines the factors that contributed to the use of populist strategies by political parties during recent presidential elections in Kenya, South Africa, and Zambia. Specifically, the paper argues that the nature of party competition in Africa, combined with rapid urbanization and informalization of the labour force, provided a niche for populist leaders to espouse a message relevant to the region’s growing urban poor. Simultaneously, such leaders employed ethno-linguistic appeals to mobilize a segment of rural voters who could form a minimum winning coalition in concert with the urban poor and thereby deliver sizeable electoral victories. While such strategies are similar to those used by Latin American populists, the paper highlights key contrasts as well. By combining cross-regional and sub-national perspectives, this paper therefore aims to contribute to a better understanding of how demographic and socioeconomic changes in Africa intersect with voting behaviour and political party development.
Publisher:
UNU-WIDER
Series:
WIDER Working Paper
Volume:
2010/114
Title:
WP/114 Populist Strategies in African Democracies
Authors:
Danielle Resnick
Publication date:
October 2010
ISBN 13 Web:
978-92-9230-352-5
Copyright holder:
© UNU-WIDER
Copyright year:
2010
Keywords:
Africa, democratization, political parties, populism, urbanization, voting behaviour
JEL:
O15, O17, O18, R11
Project:
New Directions in Development Economics (2010)
Sponsor:
UNU-WIDER gratefully acknowledges the financial contributions to the research programme by the governments of Denmark (Royal Ministry of Foreign Affairs), Finland (Ministry for Foreign Affairs), Sweden (Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency—Sida) and the United Kingdom (Department for International Development—DFID).
Format:
online and printed copies
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