n Journal of African Elections - Durable or terminal? Racial and ethnic explanations of the 2009 elections

Volume 9, Issue 2
  • ISSN : 1609-4700



The perennial debate among academics, the media, analysts and the public in general, especially during election periods, is the level and extent to which racial and ethnic factors can be said to explain voters' behaviour in making their choices. There are two competing viewpoints. The first asserts that these two variables are primary in explaining voting behaviour, the second that they are of limited value in understanding electoral outcomes. The debate is significant as it is linked to and has an impact on the country's democratisation trajectory. The former viewpoint is generally negative, the latter relatively positive. The pessimistic view considers the voting patterns as necessarily imperilling democracy while the optimistic view posits that their existence in and of themselves does not threaten democracy as they have little agency in determining voters' choices. This article argues that race and ethnicity have had only a superficial effect on electoral outcomes from 1994 to 2009 and hence should not be accorded primacy in explaining the outcomes. An analysis of the 2009 elections provides tangible and incremental empirical evidence that their import and value as explanatory variables is weakening.

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