The determinants of Party System Change in Sub-Saharan Africa

Riccardo Pelizzo


This article examines what socio-economic factors are conducive to changes in the patterns of inter-party competition in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). The literature has in recent years paid considerable attention to measuring party system change, to identifying the consequences of party system instability for the proper functioning of democratic regimes, and to understanding what factors are responsible for the instability of party systems. In contrast to previous studies that view political change in general and party system change more specifically as the result of social transformation, development, modernization and change in the cleavage structure, this paper shows instead that poverty is the primary driver of party system change in the SSA region. In countries with high levels of poverty, political elites do enjoy little to no performance-based legitimacy. The lack of performance-based legitimacy is the reason why voters in such countries are willing to alter their voting habits and parties are unable to preserve their electoral fortunes over time—which is precisely why party systems do change. The literature showed that stable party systems are good for democracy. This paper shows that to enhance the stability of party system in SSA, poverty has to be reduced and possibly eradicated.


Poverty; Development; Party System; Fluidity

Full Text:



Bartolini, S., & Mair, P. (2007). Identity, competition and electoral availability: the stabilisation of European electorates 1885-1985. United Kingdom: ECPR Press.

Basedau, M., & Stroh, A. (2008). Measuring party institutionalization in developing countries: A new research instrument applied to 28 African political parties.

Bogaards, M. (2008). Dominant party sys-tems and electoral volatility in Africa: a comment on Mozaffar and Scarritt. Party Politics, 14(1), 113-130.

Ferree, K. E. (2010). The social origins of electoral volatility in Africa. British journal of political science, 40(4), 759-779.

Huntington, S. P. (1968). Political order in changing societies. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Huntington, S. P. (1993). The third wave: Democratization in the late twentieth century. Norman: University of Oklahoma press.

Lipset, S. M., & Stein, R. (1967). "Cleavage Structures, Party Systems and Voter Alignments: An Introduction," in Lipset and Rokkan, eds., Party Systems and Voter Alignments. New York: Free Press, 1-64.

Mozaffar, S., & Scarritt, J. R. (2005). The puzzle of African party systems. Party Politics, 11(4), 399-421.

Mozaffar, S., Scarritt, J. R., & Galaich, G. (2003). Electoral institutions, ethnopolitical cleavages, and party systems in Africa's emerging democracies. American political science review, 97(3), 379-390.

Lowell, A. L. (1896). Governments and parties in continental Europe. Houghton: Mifflin.

Nwokora, Z., & Pelizzo, R. (2015). The Political Consequences of Party System Change. Politics & Policy, 43(4), 453-473.

Nwokora, Z., & Pelizzo, R. (2018). Measuring Party System Change: A Systems Perspective. Political Studies, 66(1), pp. 100-118.

Olson, M. (1963). Rapid growth as a desta-bilizing force. The Journal of Economic History, 23(4), 529-552.

Pedersen, M. N. (1979). The dynamics of European party systems: Changing patterns of electoral volatility. European Journal of Political Research, 7(1), 1-26.

Pelizzo, R., and Nwokora, Z. (2016). Bridging the Divide: Measuring Party System Change and Classifying Party Systems. Politics & Policy, 44(6), 1017-1052.

Pelizzo, R., and Nwokora, Z. (2018). Party System Change and the Quality of Democracy in East Africa, Politics and Policy, 46(3).

Sartori, G. (1976). Party and party systems. A Framework for Analysis. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Tsebelis, G. (2001). Veto players: How political institutions work. Princeton: Princeton University Press.



  • There are currently no refbacks.

Copyright (c) 2018 Otoritas : Jurnal Ilmu Pemerintahan

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.


Creative Commons License

Otoritas : Jurnal Ilmu Pemerintahan is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
View My Stats