n Institute for Security Studies Papers - Democracy, elections & political parties : a conceptual overview with special emphasis on Africa

Volume 2008, Issue 166
  • ISSN : 1026-0404



Few concepts are more central to the modern state and at the same time difficult to define than the concepts of democracy, elections and political parties. This paper, based on books, book chapters, journal articles and research papers, will nonetheless try to defy the odds and explain these concepts as clearly as possible and in the context of Africa. It is organised as follows. Section one elaborates on the definitions of elections and democracy. Section two considers the quality of elections in Africa as well as the most common perceptions concerning them. Section three briefly describes the selection, categories and operation of the various electoral systems. Section four examines the type and responsibility of the three institutions crucial to carry out and secure the preparation and conduct of elections, namely the electoral commission, the judiciary and the military. Section five discusses the purposes, relevance and constraints of international observation, while section six reviews those of domestic observation groups. Section seven surveys the different attempts to define the concept of political party, identifies its distinguishing characteristics and clarifies its most basic functions, especially those that generally relate to elections. And, section eight finally considers the historical background, leadership, foundation and inadequacies of Africa's political parties.

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