Discussion Papers

No.745 Presidential Candidate Selection and Factionalism in Five Dominant Parties in Sub-Saharan Africa

by Machiko Tsubura

March 2019


In dominant party states in sub-Saharan Africa where presidential succession occurs regularly, factional competition culminates in the selection of presidential candidates, a process which is frequently more competitive than a general election. It is crucial that dominant parties manage factionalism in presidential candidate selection, maintain party coherence and win elections. Against such a background, this study examines how dominant parties in five African countries with regular presidential succession, namely, Botswana, Namibia, Mozambique, Tanzania and South Africa, have managed factionalism and avoided critical defections. The study finds that presidential candidate selection in all cases except that of South Africa since 2007 have been centralised, albeit to varying degrees, to control factionalism. The study demonstrates a wide variation in methods and practices of presidential candidate selection, including the level of selectorate inclusiveness, which can be explained partially by differences in electoral institutions. The study also finds a common measure taken in three case countries to accommodate rival factions in the interest of reconsolidating party unity after the defection of senior party members. The study aims to help our understanding of succession management as a crucial internal factor in the endurance of one-party dominance in some countries in sub-Saharan Africa.

Keywords: dominant parties, presidential candidate selection, factionalism

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