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
Tags: democratic consolidation, elections, legitimacy, Malawi, southern Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe
journal of african elections vol20 number 1 transparent democratic governance in africa