Academic journal article African Studies Review

Votes, Money and Violence: Political Parties and Elections in Sub-Saharan Africa

Academic journal article African Studies Review

Votes, Money and Violence: Political Parties and Elections in Sub-Saharan Africa

Article excerpt

POLITICS, INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS, AND GLOBALIZATION Matthias Basedau, Gero Erdmann, and Andreas Mehler, eds. Votes, Money and Violence: Political Parties and Elections in Sub-Saharan Africa. Uppsala: Nordiska Afrikainstitutet, 2007. 301 pp. Tables. Notes. References. Index. euro31. Paper.

This work includes ten contributions presented to a conference organized by the Africa-Europe Group for Interdisciplinary Studies (AEGIS) held at Hamburg in 2003. The diversity of the contributions testifies both to the vitality of the work in this field and to the range of subthemes to emerge under the general rubric of the effects of money and violence on voting patterns. As the editors note, "research on African political parties and party systems is still in its infancy" (276). Nonetheless, despite the "infancy" of the field, these texts are far from immature.

The first contribution, by Gyimah-Boadi, is by a recognized analyst of political processes in Ghana, his country of origin; he is the only African contributor to this book. The depth of his understanding of the local conditions stands out; other contributions, by European researchers, struggle in constructing conceptual frameworks and lack the density of empirical data of this chapter. It is clear that the difficulty of acquiring a command of local conditions makes it very challenging to construct a viable comparative framework among these various presentations.

Most papers address the task of drawing up a framework for comparative analysis, beginning with that of Erdmann, who explores the flaws of the Western model, and that of Burnell, who continues the discussion. Subsequent chapters are based on transnational African comparisons and explore the relations between electoral systems and party systems, a focus for a great deal of literature published at the international level. Two chapters by Mehler and Laakso analyze the theme of "violence," while Nugent takes on the task of examining the role of money in these elections. These three chapters share the merit of exploring the complexity of voting processes in Africa by which democracy is precariously situated within the social fields associated with "clientelism," "neopatrimonialism," and "ethnicity. …

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