Conference name, dates, place

Third International Conference on Development Studies in Ethiopia, June 18-19, 2005, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Document Type


Presentation Date



Under what conditions will voters support opposition parties in the dominant party systems of sub-Saharan Africa? Scholars generally agree that most of the region’s ruling parties manage to win re-election by relying on a set of by now familiar strategies – distributing patronage, exploiting ethnic cleavages, and employing violence (van de Walle 2003; Adejumobi 2000; Diamond and Plattner 1999; Joseph 1997). While the incumbent’s deliberate manipulation of the electoral arena is well established in the Africanist literature (Takougang 2003; Makumbe 2002; Crook 1997), we still lack a clear conception of the factors which enable opposition parties to build popular support in countries where democracy has yet to be consolidated. We have no adequate explanation for why some constituencies are more willing to take a risk in opting for an opposition party’s candidate over the ruling party’s even when it is clear that the government has no intention of leaving office.