Democracy and Elections in Africa

Article excerpt

Democracy and Elections in Africa. By Staffan I. Lindberg. Baltimore, Md.: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2006. Pp. xiii, 227. $55.00 cloth, $24.95 paper.

This book comes at an opportune moment in Africa's history. Internationally, this is an age of Afro-pessimism. But domestically, frustration with various forms of government (that in most cases failed to deliver the goods and uplift the people from poverty) has led to a new awakening and demands for "democracy" and open and fair governments among Africans themselves. At one end of the spectrum is Mugabe's Zimbabwe, once one of the most prosperous countries in Africa and an exporter of food that has been torn apart mainly by the megalomaniac tendencies of its leader. Here, elections have been seriously orchestrated exercises. At the other end of the spectrum we find the war-torn countries of Liberia and Siena Leone, which have been through turning point elections in two years. In Liberia, successful elections brought the first woman president to power after a civil war that saw a brutal and conupt warlord being "elected" as president. In Siena Leone the oldest political party (which was marginalized for a quarter of a century under a strong-arm rule that facilitated a civil war) was swept to power twice, but after failing to deliver, saw defeat at the hands of the opposition last September. Increasingly, Africans are demanding elections and "democracy."

Against this background, Lindberg has done a good job. Written with serious academic and methodological rigor, this book contributes to the discourse on comparative democratization in Africa. Although at first glance it may appear as a study in elections, the author argues that elections in themselves do not constitute a democracy. …