n Journal of African Elections - The concept of agency theory in electoral democracy

Volume 17 Number 2
  • ISSN : 1609-4700



This essay analyses the doctrine of the law of agency in the context of electoral democracy in assessing the rights and liabilities of the political elite and the voting public. The principal-agent model was employed to expatiate challenges in the relationship between the agent’s performance and how the principal can reward or punish the agent through competitive elections. In doing so, the elected political authorities are deemed to be agents of state governance while the voters, and by extension the population, are seen as principals of the state. The principal-agent relationship generates the electoral accountability of representatives to constituents by checking and controlling the behaviour of the political elite to ensure that national programmes, policies and laws are applied for the benefit of the general public. The study concludes that voters, as principals, expect political agents to deliver public goods and services to their benefit and that failure do so attracts a vote of censure. This means that competitive elections create a relationship of formal accountability between political leaders and voters. This accountability minimises the ability of political leaders to use the advantage of information asymmetery.

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