The Aim of this essay is based on the clarity on the Elections in Africa if they are a good Measure of democracy. It basically analyses the advantages and disadvantages of elections (in an argument form). The issue of how citizens influence policymaker is central to an understanding of democratic political system. We normally agree that democracy should allow the people to participate in policy making. Hence elections are one of the ways to establish connections between citizens and policy makers and by elections citizens encourage the policymakers to pay attention to their interests. However there are some disagreements about whether and how elections serve to link citizens to policymakers; a number of schools put more emphasis upon accountability and others do on representativeness, even if there have been a lot of theoretical debates about this issue, we have few attempts to test the role of competitive election on popular attitudes towards the legislature.
An election is a formal decision making process in which the population chooses an individual to hold a public office. Elections have been the mechanism by which modern representative democracy has been operated since 17TH century. According to Business Dictionary (BD), Election is the act of a party casting vote to choose an individual, for some type of position. It may involve a public or private vote depending on the position. Most positions in the local, state federal governments are voting on the same type of elections. According to (Abraham Lincoln), the word democracy means “the government of the people, by the people and for the people “.
Democracy is term that comes from a Greek and it is made up of two other words, demo which means people and kratain which means to govern or to rule. Democracy can then be literally translated by the following terms, Government of the people or government of the majority. Electoral systems are conventionally divided into two categories, majoritarian. And proportional representations, (Lijphart 1999). Majoritarian system usually employs exclusively single-seat distrust with plurality rule and tends to give greater representation to the two parties and that which receive the most votes. Proportional representation (P.R) System must employ multi-seat districts, usually with party lists, and typically produce parliamentary representation that largely mirrors the vote shares of multi-parties However elections be it Proportional Representation (PR), or Majoritarian type, are instruments of democracy to the degree that they give the people the influence over policymaking,.(Powell 2000).
One fundamental role of elections is the evaluation of the incumbents government. Citizens use elections to reward or punish the incumbents although on the other hand increasingly competitive elections raise the risk of increased election violence, this can be raised in two ways. Firstly, closer elections can increase tension throughout the electoral process; when the outcome of the election is in doubt, all stages of the process including the appointment of the members of the electoral management body, the registration of parties, candidates, and voters; campaigning; voting ;and vote counting and tabulation, becomes more heated. For example, Kenya erupted in chaos in 2007 when incumbent president Mwai kibaki was sworn in hours after being declared the winner in the country’s closest presidential elections ever; the ensuing violence left 1,500 dead and 300,000 displaced.
Secondly, as long-term incumbents witness the growing strength of the opposition candidates, they may feel increasingly imperilled and crack down more fiercely on perceived threats, example, after losing the first round of Zimbabwe’s 2008 presidential elections and subsequently manipulating results to force run-off, president Robert Mugabe presided over a wave of widespread and brutal violence against supporters of Morgan Tsvangirai to ensure himself victory in the second round. While these above examples demonstrate the potential of elections to create conflict, elections are often used as a means to end conflict and solidify peace. For this reason, elections usually form a key part of the agreements ending civil wars or conflict. The basic principal behind these post conflict or transitional elections is that of Ballots over Bullets: citizens choosing their political leaders by voting rather than fighting, although in the 1992 Angola elections which was intended to end the civil war, this election instead reignited conflict for another ten (10) years. cases such as these have led many to argue that elections are not appropriate for post conflict environment.
In majority, however, there is no viable alternative to post conflict elections as a means of achieving legitimate governance; a non elected government is far more susceptible to accusations of illegitimacy than the one chose by the people, and legitimate governance must be achieved as soon as possible following a conflict. Moreover, elections have the potential to create government broadly representative of all disputing political factions. Demonstratively, several countries have recently held remarkably successful post-conflict elections. For example, Liberia’s elections in 2005 intended to over a decade of civil war were remarkably peaceful and hailed as generally free and fair. Another example is the DRC’s 2006 elections, the first multi-party election in 46 years, were also relatively successful, especially when considering the tremendous logistical challenges that had to be overcome. in these cases therefore, elections facilitated an ongoing transition from devastating conflict toward greater stability and development.
Based on a multi-level analysis of Afro barometer survey data from 17 sub-Saharan African countries, the study examines the influence of these two types of electoral systems; Majoritarian and Proportional Representations-on popular confidence in African parliaments. Controlling for a variety of individual and macro-level characteristics, it was found that citizen’s perceptions of Members of Parliament (MP’s) representations have a positive and significant effect on their trust in legislature. In addition the results suggest that the effect of political representations is mediated by electoral systems. Powell (2000), distinguishes between two versions of elections as instruments of democracy; accountability and representation. Accountability model tries to use elections to bring the power of the people directly to bear on policymakers. Elections offer citizens a periodic opportunity to change the policymakers.
Citizens will have control because they will be able, at least occasionally to reject elected officials who are doing the wrong. Competitive elections create a pressure on all incumbents or rather the current policymakers to worry about the next elections and make policy with voters review in mind. On the other hand representation model emphasises citizens should be treated equally at the decisive stage of public policy making. Elections are instruments of citizen’s influence in policy making. Elections should create equitable reflection of all points of view into the legislature. They work as an instrument to choose representatives who can bargain for their voter’s interest in post-election policy making.
Elections are not only integral to all these areas of democratic governance, but are also the most visible representations of democracy in action. They are also in most cases the most complicated and expensive single event a country will ever undertake. Good governance, upholding rule of law, and supporting civil society, this testimony examines all these areas in the context of elections. International support to electoral processes is crucial if democracy is to continue developing on the African continent.
Indeed the very purpose of elections is to achieve participatory governance without violence- through political rather than physical competition –and this has succeeded in a number of African countries. South-Africa and Botswana, for example have proven themselves among the continent’s most stable democracies, while Ghana, Mali, and Benin have emerged as democratic stronghold in West Africa. Moreover, countries such as Sierra Leone and Liberia, among the poorest in the world and only recently emerged from civil war, have demonstrated the power of elections to foster and solidify peace. In reality, then, Africa’s experience with the electoral democracy has been mixed; progress has been made but challenges remain. The various elections in past several years-from Kenya and Zimbabwe to Ghana and Sierra Leone- have become historical landmarks for different reasons, varying drastically in their conduct and outcome.
This mix of electoral experience has generated considerable debate and passion on the subject of transparent, free and fair electoral process among election stakeholders, especially as democratic progress itself can come with further challenges; as more elections are held as these elections become increasingly competitive, one-party and military regimes face potentially destabilizing challenges that could increase the risk of fraud and violence. In conclusion; elections-especially free and fair, competitive and multi-party elections, are assumed to be a critical component of democratization in emerging democracies, while an election can intensify the polarization of a society along ethnic lines. Competitive elections can force political elites to legitimate their rule through the ballot box.
However, we are still debating about how elections serve to link voters and elected Officials. While a group of scholars emphasise the directness and clarity of the connection between voters and policy-makers, others do the representation of all factions in society. Elections help voters to send Members of Parliament (MP’s) representing their interest to the parliament, to some extent elections constitutes a principal avenue of citizen’s involvement in political life. Understanding their effects on public attitudes towards the legislature and the role of the individual therein has important implications for theories of democratic governance in emerging democracy. Therefore with this information, elections are a good measure of democracy in that they give citizens the participatory right in policy making through their elected representatives. Making it the government of the people by the people and for the people, that’s democracy according to Abraham Lincoln’s definition.
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