n Journal of African Elections - Local elections in the SADC countries : a comparative analysis of local electoral institutions

Volume 3, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 1609-4700



With the recent wave of democratisation in Sub-Saharan Africa a new interest has emerged in elected local councils. The importance of elected local governments in promoting democracy is now emphasised by both national actors and the international community. It is also increasingly underlined by research, both from the field of development theory/politics and from comparative research on democratisation processes. These broader arguments are narrowed down by concentrating on local electoral rules. This contribution presents data for all Southern African countries on the types of elected bodies at sub-national level of government, the composition of local councils, the regularity and simultaneity of local and national elections, the electoral systems and the rules governing candidature at the local level. Electoral rules are just one set of institutions that matter in local politics, and there is no doubt that other variables (such as local administration, resource allocation or capacity-building) are equally important. But the assumption is that local electoral institutions are relevant for the democratisation of both local and national politics, and thus merit closer scrutiny. The comparative study of different countries offers additional insights into similarities or specific constraints and problems that countries face in organising local elections, as well as into the institutional solutions that they eventually opt for. The paper also explores some likely consequences and impacts of these (differing) rules on the respective political processes of these countries, and subsequently highlights several issues that may be of relevance to broader arguments about the viability and consolidation of democratic politics in the region, at both local and national level.

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