​​​The Rejection of Election Results in Africa

​​​The Rejection of Election Results in Africa

Abstract

​Election results in Africa are more likely to be rejected by opposition parties than anywhere else in the world. This rejection rate has remained nearly constant since the renewal of multiparty elections in the early 1990s. We hypothesize that the persistence of this pattern can be explained, in part, by the victory-legitimacy tradeoff that incumbent leaders must negotiate each electoral cycle. Incumbents who rely on violent tactics to secure their hold on power and demonstrate their strength as political actors should be expected to provoke the rejection of election results. Yet, at the same time, incumbents understand that complete rejection of an election can undermine their legitimacy. We theorize that incumbents in such situations can induce greater acceptance of election results by appointing some of their opponents to post-election governments. An analysis of nearly 200 African elections shows that opposition parties are less likely to accept election results when campaign periods are tainted by violence, regardless of the constraints on executive power or the quality of electoral institutions. The analysis further shows that opposition acceptance of election results systematically shapes post-election government formation in Africa: more parties enter the executive cabinet as more opponents accept the results.

Publication
Revise and resubmit at African Affairs
Date