Do Africans Want Democracy? Answers May Surprise You

Do Africans Want Democracy? Answers May Surprise You

Opposition to one-party rule in Africa and support for democracy have risen substantially in the past decade, but most Africans don’t think they have democratic governments, AllAfrica reports.

A country-by-country analysis by Afrobarometer shows that demand for democracy is high in African countries that recently held successful elections or where government changed peacefully through elections such as Ghana, Mauritius, Senegal and Zambia, AllAfrica reports.

But demand for democracy is much lower in countries where democracy is disputed or elections are non existent, such as Algeria, Egypt, Madagascar and Swaziland.

In Nigeria, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Cameroon and Cote d’Ivoire, demand for democracy far exceeds what the countries’ rulers are supplying, according to the report.

These are among the conclusions of the latest 34-country public opinion survey conducted by Afrobarometer, an African-led series of national public attitude surveys on democracy and governance in Africa.

The report gives a nuanced reading of Africans’ views on democracy, noting, for example,
that Tanzanians appear to be the Africans most satisfied with the way democracy works in their country. But it adds, “since Tanzanians are below average in rejecting one party-rule… they may well use a much less exacting democratic standard than Ghanaians.”

The report was written by Prof. Michael Bratton of Michigan State University in the U.S.
and Richard Houessou of the Institute for Empirical Research in Political Economy in Benin.

Of 16 countries surveyed regularly since 2002, support for democracy rose from 63
percent to 75 percent of adults. But only 43 percent both believe their country is a democracy and say they are satisfied with the way democracy works.

Rejection of one-party rule grew from 67 percent to 77 percent. Military rule was rejected by a high proportion of adults – 79 percent – but this figure is just 2 percent higher than in 2002.

Afrobarometer linked the depth of survey respondents’ commitment to democracy with whether they reject all forms of autocracy –one-party rule, military
rule or a one-man dictatorship.

Almost all respondents – 93 percent – reject at least one of these forms, but
only 58 percent reject all three.

“Most importantly,” the report said, “less than half of all Africans interviewed (46 percent) consistently identify democracy as the only form of government they would ever wish to have. So far… a deeply rooted demand for democracy apparently remains a
minority public sentiment.”

“Seven out of 10 Africans prefer democracy to other political regimes, and the proportion of deeply committed democrats – that is, those who also reject authoritarian alternatives – has risen steadily over the past decade,” Afrobarometer said in the report released from Bamako, Mali.

But, it adds, “People don’t always think they are getting democracy… While ordinary Africans clamor for high-quality elections and leadership accountability, too many political leaders continue to manipulate the polls, challenge term limits, and even seize power by coup.

“In the most common pattern across African countries, popular demand for democracy exceeds the available supply, producing a deficit of democracy. ”

The report also raises questions about the depth of African support for democracy, suggesting that levels of support depend on whether citizens are experiencing democracy and whether they feel they are benefitting from it. And it finds military rule still has “a lingering appeal” among some Africans.

AllAfrica provided a partial list, based on Afrobarometer’s 34-country survey, showing which countries support democracy and reject authoritarian alternatives:

Most support for democracy: Zambia, Mauritius, Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire, Uganda, Botswana, Senegal and Liberia. (Support ranges from 78 percent in Zambia to 61
percent in Liberia.)

Least support for democracy: Egypt, Algeria, Madagascar, Sudan, Mozambique and Tunisia. (Support ranges from 17 percent in Egypt to 27 percent in Tunisia.)

Most satisfied with the way democracy works: Tanzania, Ghana, Mauritius,
Botswana, Zambia, Senegal, Burundi, Niger, Namibia, Algeria and South Africa. (Satisfaction ranges from 75 percent in Tanzania to 60 percent in South Africa.)

Least satisfied with the way democracy works: Madagascar, Togo, Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire, Mali, Zimbabwe, Egypt, Nigeria, Mozambique and Swaziland. (Satisfaction ranges from 13 percent in Madagascar to 35 percent in Swaziland.)