Chiefs, Elections, and Violence: Mobilization and Demobilization of African Voters
AdvisorBraithwaite, Jessica M.
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction, presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractWhy do some electoral districts experience more pre-election violence than the others in national elections? This dissertation examines how a particular type of local actor – African chiefs – affects pre-election violence locally. I make two arguments regarding the conditions under which chiefs are capable of deterring pre-election violence targeting their communities, and under which chiefs and their subjects are motivated to participate in pre-election violence. In my dissertation I first argue that centralization of kin groups in precolonial era enhances chiefs’ capability of voter coordination in contemporary time, and in turn reduces the risk of pre-election violence. Using survey- and event-based data from both existing and original datasets, I find a negative relationship between precolonial centralization of kin groups and pre-election violence. Further results of two-stage least squares regressions confirm the internal validity of this relationship. These findings apply to cases where indirect rule was adopted and customary land tenure preserved under colonial government, such as much of the Anglophone West Africa, because precolonial institutions have been better preserved in such cases. My second argument concerns how kin-group-based chieftaincy disputes drive royal families to fight one another during the election periods. Having local aspirants in the challenger families – who seek to change the status quo in chieftaincy disputes – increases the risk that chieftaincy disputes escalate into violent conflicts during the elections. Local aspirants, politicians who have dual identities as political party and royal family members, have particular interests in causing political parties to interfere with chieftaincy disputes. As the outcomes of chieftaincy disputes become associated with the outcomes of national elections, disputing royal families have strong motivation to fight each other during elections. I adopt a most-similar case design based on qualitative data collected through field research in Ghana, and inductively develop a theory of politicization of chieftaincy disputes. The findings of this dissertation demonstrate the complex functions of chiefs and their institutional foundations in African elections. In particular, the institutions of kin group structure local actors’ interests in such a way that they could be motivated to support and undermine democratic processes at the same time. These findings contribute new arguments and evidence to the debate about the relationships between traditional and democratic institutions. In addition, they also highlight the heterogenous colonial legacies between the Anglophone countries in Africa. Precolonial institutions are in general better preserved in Anglophone countries in West Africa then in other countries. Lastly, the findings also have policy implications. Chiefs can become valuable local non-state actors that join forces with international and national actors in pre-election violence prevention. It is also necessary to develop legal and policy instruments that separate politicians from traditional affairs.
Degree ProgramGraduate College
Government and Public Policy