In This Review

From Protest to Parties: Party-Building and Democratization in Africa
From Protest to Parties: Party-Building and Democratization in Africa
By Adrienne LeBas
Oxford University Press, USA, 2011, 270 pp
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This book examines contemporary politics in Kenya, Zambia, and Zimbabwe to understand why some opposition parties manage to wrest power away from long-standing autocratic rulers, as in Zambia in 1991, and others do not, as in Kenya in 1992. LeBas’ ingenious answer is that autocratic regimes establish the instruments of their own demise by creating relatively strong corporate actors, such as trade unions, to buttress their own rule. Indeed, trade unions created by African regimes have sometimes turned against their patrons and become the core of effective opposition parties. LeBas shows how a highly contentious transition to democracy can help strengthen political parties but also tends to increase the possibility of political violence -- as it has in both Kenya and Zimbabwe. The book’s analysis of party competition in these three countries is astute and rings true. But additional evidence from other political transitions is needed to determine whether LeBas’ findings are applicable to other low-income countries.