In This Review

Party Proliferation and Political Contestation in Africa: Senegal in Comparative Perspective
Party Proliferation and Political Contestation in Africa: Senegal in Comparative Perspective
By Catherine Lena Kelly
Palgrave Macmillan, 2020, 268 pp

In her well-informed study, Kelly examines recent electoral politics in Senegal through the prism of party competition. She starts with the puzzle that nearly 300 political parties are officially registered in Senegal even though only a handful have ever won seats in parliament in more than a single election. Why do so many parties compete in elections despite the fact that they are unlikely to win seats, and what does this profusion tell us about Senegal’s politics? Kelly argues convincingly that unlike in older, more established democracies, most parties in Senegal do not exist for the purpose of winning elections. Instead, they are mostly the instruments through which individual politicians negotiate their access to the state and its resources. Her book documents this process carefully, following the creation of specific parties and the resulting paths of particular politicians. She shows how incumbents have resorted to extensive patronage to shore up their positions and weaken opposition parties. Senegal has had a longer tradition of multiparty electoral competition than most of its African neighbors, and so it may offer clues about long-term trends in the region.