In This Review

Democracy and Elections in Africa

Democracy and Elections in Africa
By Staffan I. Lindberg
248 pp, Johns Hopkins University Press, 2006
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How are African democracies progressing? Do multiparty elections actually sap the legitimacy of fledgling democracies, given their inevitable imperfections, or are pluralist institutions getting stronger through practice and learning? Almost two decades after the "third wave" of democratization hit Africa, the pessimistic view has slowly come to hold sway, perhaps because the failures tend to get more attention than the successes. Lindberg's book now offers compelling evidence to buttress the optimistic view. Supported by the most systematic statistical analysis of African elections to date (a data set of elections is helpfully included as an appendix), Lindberg's convincing case is that elections in the region are getting more democratic over time and that multiple elections in a country positively affect its political institutions. Along the way, Lindberg makes many pertinent observations about contemporary African politics. Rather than just relying on broad statistical analysis, the book makes excellent use of his detailed knowledge of specific elections and political systems. For the foreseeable future, this book will be the essential reference on African multiparty elections.