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Regional cleavages in African politics: persistent electoral blocs and territorial oppositions

Boone, Catherine ORCID: 0000-0001-5324-7814, Wahman, Michael, Kyburz, Stephan and Linke, Andrew (2022) Regional cleavages in African politics: persistent electoral blocs and territorial oppositions. Political Geography, 99. ISSN 0962-6298

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Identification Number: 10.1016/j.polgeo.2022.102741


Do socio-economic cleavages shape electoral dynamics in African countries? Previous individual-level and party systems research on African politics has de-emphasized socio-economic factors, contributing to the common view that ethnic cleavages and short-term ethnic alliances define politics both locally and nationally. Focusing on Kenya, Zambia, and Malawi, we draw on methods in electoral geography to offer a spatial analysis of geographic patterns in constituency-level electoral returns over three decades that reveals the existence of persistent regional voting blocs that, in their temporal stability and multiethnic character, are not well explained by prevailing theory. The anomalies open the door to a reinterpretation national electoral structure and dynamics in the three countries that takes the geographic clustering of the persistent voting blocs as a clue to their etiology. We propose an interpretation that focuses on core-periphery cleavages in national electorates, following Lipset and Rokkan's (1967) classic model of territorial oppositions in countries undergoing political and economic integration and modernization. DHS data and proxies for regional economic activity support this interpretation. Socio-economic cleavages of the type explored in comparative political economy literatures on spatial inequality and territorial politics may be more salient in African electoral politics than previously thought.

Item Type: Article
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Additional Information: © 2022 The Authors
Divisions: International Development
Subjects: J Political Science > JQ Political institutions Asia
H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
Date Deposited: 25 Aug 2022 09:12
Last Modified: 09 Nov 2022 11:48

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