Electoral Transfers of Power and Presidential Candidate Selection in Sub-Saharan Africa

Discussion Papers


by Machiko Tsubura

March 2020


Drawing on Tsubura’s studies (2019a; 2019b) that analyse how presidential candidates have been selected and critical defections avoided among dominant parties in countries of sub-Saharan Africa (hereinafter referred to as Africa) that have regular presidential succession, the present paper examines presidential candidate selection among ruling parties that have failed to establish one-party dominance in Africa. Specifically, this paper explores whether electoral transfers of power in the region are attributable to the failure to maintain party coherence in the selection of new presidential candidates. The paper conducts a two-stage analysis. First, it proposes a typology of electoral transfers of power in Africa by identifying two major dimensions: 1) whether ruling parties were dominant or non-dominant when they first lost multi-party elections and 2) whether ruling parties lost incumbent or open-seat elections. This classification reveals that no dominant party has lost open-seat elections in Africa, suggesting that, once one-party dominance is established, the dominant party is likely to continue managing leadership succession successfully. The second stage of the paper analyses presidential candidate selection of 1) non-dominant parties that lost open-seat elections and 2) a dominant party that lost an incumbent election. The two sets of analysis suggest that the maintenance of party cohesion in presidential candidate selection may have been more critical for the establishment of dominant-party systems than for their endurance in Africa.

Keywords: electoral transfers of power, presidential candidate selection

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