Democratic Ruptures and Electoral Outcomes in Africa: Ghana’s 2016 Election

George Bob-Milliar, Jeffrey Paller


Repetitive elections are important benchmarks for assessing the maturity of Africa’s electoral democracies. Yet the processes through which elections entrench a democratic culture remain understudied. We introduce an important mechanism called a democratic rupture: an infraction in the democratisation process during competitive elections that has the potential to cause a constitutional crisis. It provides a new avenue of citizen participation outside of voting, and political space for opposition party realignment and to strengthen its support. Drawing from the case of Ghana, we show how the 2012 presidential election petition challenge served as a democratic rupture by contributing to the opposition’s victory in 2016, enabling its political development. First, it exposed flaws in the electoral system and led to demands for electoral reforms. Second, it led to citizens being better educated on the electoral process. Third, it taught political parties that vigilance at the polling stations can help win elections. The article provides a critical analysis of the factors that shape democratic development, especially in cases where opposition parties defeat incumbent politicians.

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