VII-1. Democratic Election Process in Africa: Progress, Paradoxes and Challenges (friendly merging of the panels: Democratic Elections in Africa: Progress, Prospects and Challenges and Tropical Africa: Paradoxes of Electoral Processes)

Conveners: Andreas Velthuizen (University of South Africa, Pretoria); e-mail:, Tatyana Denisova (Institute for African Studies, Moscow, Russia); e-mail:

Democratic Elections in Africa: Progress, Prospects and Challenges (proposed by Andreas Velthuizen)
The panel is formed against the background of significant progress made in the management of democratic elections since the dawn of the 21st century within the context of the revival of Africa or what is called “the African Renaissance”. In this regard the management of democratic elections took place amidst African knowledge systems, philosophical principles, shared values, decolonization, political independence, and a framework of revival that is in many ways unique to Africa, driving African renaissance and change or transformation through activities such as democratic elections. A critical analysis and complementary reflection on progress made in the management of democratic elections since the beginning of the 21st century is required. Such an analysis and reflections would include close scrutiny of issues such as the normative and legal framework of democratic elections in Africa, the application of population census and demarcation, the application of voter registration and electoral democracy education, the legislative framework for running elections including the funding of political parties, the role of the media during the electoral process in an African context, planning and organizing of resources, the role of armed forces and logistics during democratic elections in an African context, management of vote counting, declaring the results, examining the freeness and fairness of elections including monitoring and observation processes, the role of gender and research and knowledge management as well as election management training. The main aims of this panel will be to:
- Promote collaboration among scholars of elections, democracy and governance in Africa, African Diaspora and elsewhere in the world;
- Promote cross-pollination of ideas on the issues discussed in the panel;
- Share the latest ideas, methods and innovative practices on elections and democracy in the African continent;
- Learn from scholars from elsewhere in the globe on pertinent issues; and
- Identify issues for further research and analysis based on the outcome of the conference and issues raised during debates by various participants.

Tropical Africa: Paradoxes of Electoral Processes (proposed by Tatyana Denisova)
In the late 1990s-early 2000s, a "wave of democratization" swept through the African continent. As a result, domestic and foreign political scientists, who for years had studied the evolution of authoritarian regimes, suddenly found themselves facing an entirely new reality ¬– multivector political changes in most countries of the continent. As a rule, holding of parliamentary and presidential elections is among the key indicators of "democratisation". Yet the real democracy implies not only the very fact of holding an election, but a punishment for falsifying its results, as well as presence of checks and balances that limit the power of an elected leader: he, at least, should not persecute the unsuccessful contenders. In nearly all countries of Tropical Africa presidential, parliamentary, gubernatorial, provincial, local and other elections have become a familiar feature of political life, and if observers do not reveal serious violations, the elections are considered valid, and society, whether it gets a new leader or keeps the old, walks along the path of democratization. This does not take into account the fact that in the African context, an election may become a matter of life and death for candidates or their voters, as contenders often resort to extreme methods to protect their electoral interests. After the end of the Cold War it was no longer necessary to fund dictatorships in order to keep them as allies in the struggle between the two military-political blocs. Foreign governments, financial institutions and aid agencies began to demand democratic reforms from African leaders in exchange for financial assistance. Their main "request" was holding of "free and fair" election campaigns with the participation of international observers. It should be noted that Western donors and investors can force a leader to implement reforms, but such external pressure often leads to the opposite results: not all rulers are ready to do something against their will, and some are remarkably resourceful in finding ways to avoid it. Meanwhile, the majority of politicians and voters were ready for or even insisted on holding elections. For the opposition, it was a promising path to power, while for the ruling party – a path to the legitimization of power in the eyes of citizens and foreign donors. By participating in elections, voters received satisfaction from using their ballot to express their sentiment, initiate a political process, be part of a mass action, etc. Naturally, you get more satisfaction by voting for a candidate who enjoys widespread respect. At the same time, many acting leaders, confident in the strength of their position, all of a sudden obtained the voting results that did not correspond to their expectations. Often, they suffered because of their own ignorance: surrounded by sycophants, the rulers had not been able to assess the mood of the electorate. In principle, a victory in a democratic election is seen as the main condition for legitimising a ruler, who thus receives the right to do what he promised during the election campaign. In case he implements the declared programme, he is able to confront the opposition confidently, the latter not being able to challenge the policies of the legitimate government legally. This should also help to reduce the level of violence: even if irreconcilable opponents of the regime do not recognize the rights of the legitimate government to pursue its policy, they will find it difficult to secure mass support for violent actions, because they cannot claim that their struggle is just. The section will focus on the causes of these changes and their essence and will try to answer these questions: has it really been democratisation? Are political regimes in Africa beginning to implement "people's power"?