n African Journal on Conflict Resolution - Electoral systems, constitutionalism and conflict management in Southern Africa

Volume 4, Issue 2
  • ISSN : 1562-6997


Since the onset of the democratisation process in Southern Africa in the 1990s, democracy discourses in both academic and policy-making circles have become more robust and invigorated. Although much of the attention has been largely on elections and their value to democracy, this article attempts to broaden both the theoretical and factual terrain of this interesting epistemological exchange among intellectuals and policy makers on democratisation in Southern Africa. It does this by attempting to discover the possible linkages between elections, electoral systems, constitutionalism and conflict management and show precisely how these phenomena then either enhance or undermine democratic governance. If, indeed, the theoretical and practical interface between these phenomena adds value to the nurturing and consolidation of democratic governance, then how best should the Southern African Development Community (SADC) states make sure that there are no reversals on the democratic governance project? In a word, how do the states ensure sustainability of the process? Conversely, if in theory and practice the interface among these phenomena seems to undermine democratic governance, then a critical question becomes that of exactly how the SADC states then need to embark on some political reforms to address and redress identified policy gaps for democratic governance. This article thus argues strongly that for democratic governance and constitutionalism to be nurtured and consolidated, SADC states need to undergo deliberate electoral system reforms. Such reform process should also aim at achieving peace and stability by ensuring constructive management of both violent and non-violent conflicts. With the benefit of hindsight, it is abundantly evident that elections in the SADC region have triggered various types of conflict, thus undermining in the process constitutionalism and constitutional rule. Arguably, the electoral reform process could act as an anchor for stable constitutional governance a key for constructive management of both violent and non-violent conflicts in the SADC region.

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