Elections and democratic consolidation in West Africa : comparative study of Nigeria and Senegal, 1999-2012.
Fatai, Abiodun Surajudeen.
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The study examines elections and democratic consolidation in West Africa using Nigeria and Senegal as a comparative lens from 1999-2012. It is predicated on the contradictory trajectories of electoral politics in West Africa under the so-called third wave of democratization and their implication for the consolidation of democracy. This contradictory trend typifies the democratic experience of Nigeria and Senegal in the period under consideration making them good case studies for the presentation of empirical evidences that illustrate how elections engender democratic consolidation in West Africa. Despite the regularities of elections in these countries, which have opened the inroad to democratic consolidation, less progress has been made in terms of the institutionalization of liberal democracy, especially with respect to its principles, such as the rule of law, constitutionalism and political liberties. These principles ensure the meaningfulness and validity of elections in such a manner that political actors see the entire process as “legitimate and binding”, but also defined them in terms of the habituation to democratic rules and procedures before, during and after elections. Undue emphasis on elections only, without recourse to the institutionalization of these principles, has therefore been the cause of democratic reversal and setback in many democratizing countries. This circumstance has a telling consequence for the consolidation of democracy, especially in West Africa where the vestige of military and authoritarian past continue to undermine the institutionalization of liberal democracy. Against this background the study argues that elections, although crucial to the consolidation of democracy, they do not engender democratic consolidation in the absence of other liberal democratic principles such as the rule of law, constitutionalism and political liberties. These principles are the foundational ethos for which the behaviour of political elites is constrained and regulated, in a manner which prevents them from seeking democratic alternatives and the consequence for democratic consolidation. In this context, the study takes motivation from the liberal democratic and elite theories to analyse elections and democratic consolidation in West Africa. Using the qualitative research framework, the study heavily relies on documentary analysis and in-depth interviews conducted in Nigeria and Senegal, which was chosen as the case study from 1999-2012 in consideration of the role of the two countries in the sustenance of democracy in the sub-region. Following this analysis, the study examines several efforts towards the improvement and institutionalization of liberal democracy, and in that context, provided some other recommendations that could enhance the prospect of democratic consolidation in West Africa.