n Journal of African Elections - Electoral reform in Southern Africa : voter turnout, electoral rules and infrastructure

Volume 6, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 1609-4700



Elections are the most important elements of democracies and, with referenda, the only way to organise mass participation and to promote government accountability. Low voter turnout can be seen as an indicator of low legitimacy and limited political stability. The African Union, the Southern African Development Community and the New Partnership for Africa's Development champion the idea of transparency and the integrity of the electoral process as well as greater participation and electoral turnout. An analysis of the voting-age population of Southern African reveals that voter turnout is declining alarmingly. Do electoral rules and electoral infrastructure matter? The paper analyses election instruments using qualitative criteria from democratic theory. Are electoral systems, quotas for women and the conjunction of elections influencing voter turnout? Is a reform of voting infrastructure necessary? Southern African countries diverge widely in their electoral rules and infrastructure, which allows for cross-national learning. A number of remedies, including the necessity for automatic voter registration, are recommended.

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