In This Review

Electoral Politics in Africa Since 1990: Continuity in Change
Electoral Politics in Africa Since 1990: Continuity in Change
By Jaimie Bleck and Nicolas van de Walle
Cambridge University Press, 2018, 352 pp

In this magisterial study, Bleck and van de Walle analyze elections in sub-Saharan Africa over the last quarter century. The authors show that there has been a high degree of electoral continuity since the transition to multiparty politics in the early 1990s. They attribute this tendency to two factors: the persistence of presidential systems and the “liability of newness,” meaning most African countries’ limited experience with multiparty politics, which benefits incumbents at the expense of opposition parties. One of the volume’s major contributions is to put African elections in comparative perspective. Bleck and van de Walle’s focus on the “normality” of African elections, alongside their more unusual characteristics, offers a useful corrective to the dominant narrative of Africa’s unique electoral politics. The book also convincingly rebuts accounts of democratic backsliding and overly optimistic views of democratic consolidation. It shows that, in reality, there has been relatively little change since the democratic transitions of the early 1990s.