Direct Democracy in Southern and East Africa: Referendums and Initiatives

There seems to be a worldwide trend towards direct democracy instruments such as referendums and initiatives. The African Union Charter (2007) and the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (Nepad) strategy papers (2003) recommend these instruments. Is direct democracy the panacea for the problem of strong personalisation of African party politics? If electoral democracy is the problem, is direct democracy the solution? The article describes the legal framework and the implementation in countries in Southern and East Africa. Referendums, which are solely implemented at the national level, were often used to support regime change in the 1960s (independence) and in the 1990s (multiparty systems) and to strengthen and finalise conflict resolution. Plebiscites, characterised by strong executive governmental campaigning and party dominance predominate and citizen initiatives are not common. The implementation of citizen initiatives at both national and local level could be an additional way of strengthening accountability.

File Type: pdf
Categories: Journal of African Elections
Tags: African Union Charter, European Union (EU), New Partnership for Africa’s Development (Nepad), southern Africa