Elections, Legitimacy and Democratic Consolidation in Southern Africa: Lessons from Zambia, Zimbabwe and Malawi

Regular elections are now the norm across most of sub-Saharan Africa,
but repeated elections have not guaranteed the consolidation of democracy.
Election legitimacy is crucial for democratisation. When losing political
actors and their supporters are not satisfied with the electoral process, there
is potential for growing political tensions. Fraudulent or controversial
elections fail to confer legitimacy on the winners, and undermine the
integrity of elections and democracy. Drawing on Afrobarometer data and
media accounts, this paper focuses on the most recent elections held in three
southern African countries: Zambia, Zimbabwe and Malawi. We show that
when citizens believe that elections were not free and fair, there is a decline
in their satisfaction with democracy and the trust they have in institutions
such as electoral commissions and courts of law. The absence of political
reforms to address disputed election outcomes increases the likelihood that
future elections will not be contested fairly. This sets countries on a path of
democratic decline rather than consolidation.

File Type: pdf
Categories: Journal of African Elections
journal of african elections vol20 number 1 transparent democratic governance in africa