Reading: From Elections to Accountability in Africa?


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From Elections to Accountability in Africa?


Michael Bratton ,

Michigan State University, US
About Michael
Professor, Political Science
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Carolyn Logan

Michigan State University, US
About Carolyn
Assistant Professor, Political Science
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Competitive elections are becoming institutionalized in Africa. But elections have proven an uncertain mechanism for guaranteeing the accountability of political leaders. One reason is that political accountability has numerous attitudinal, behavioral and institutional requirements, of which popular participation in open elections is only one. Instead, we propose a framework of four elements that together comprise a holistic system of political accountability: (a) demand for vertical accountability; (b) supply of vertical accountability; (c) demand for horizontal accountability; and (d) supply of horizontal accountability.

The article measures each of these elements using data from Afrobarometer Round 5 (2011–13). On one hand, we find that the weakest link in the chain of accountability remains the vertical one between largely passive electors and evasive legislative agents. On the other hand, we find that the African citizens surveyed think that elections strengthen the institutional autonomy of parliament, thus enabling a greater measure of horizontal accountability. But this pattern of accountability begs several lingering concerns. We wonder whether citizens have sufficient information to accurately monitor the relationship between president and parliament under a democratic constitution, and we find that the quality of elections, along with the partisan predispositions of electoral winners, condition the effect of elections on popular perceptions of accountability.

How to Cite: Bratton, M. and Logan, C., 2014. From Elections to Accountability in Africa?. Governance in Africa, 1(1), p.Art. 3. DOI:
  Published on 28 Jul 2014

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