Winners, Losers and the Playing Field in Southern Africa's ‘Democratic Darlings’: Botswana and South Africa Compared
DOI: 10.1080/02589346.2013.798458
Title: Winners, Losers and the Playing Field in Southern Africa's ‘Democratic Darlings’: Botswana and South Africa Compared
Journal Title: Politikon: South African Journal of Political Studies
Volume: Volume 40
Issue: Issue 2
Publication Date: August 2013
Start Page: 233
End Page: 253
Published online: 22 Jul 2013
ISSN: 0258-9346
Author: Nicola de Jager & Cara H. Meintjes*
Abstract: Botswana and South Africa are often hailed as Southern Africa's democratic darlings. These democracies, however, occur within the context of dominant party systems; one party dominates over a prolonged period in an ostensibly democratic system. The Botswana Democratic Party has ruled since 1965, while the African National Congress has governed since 1994. This paper aims to ascertain what happens to opposition parties within dominant party systems, using Levitsky and Way [2010. “Why Democracy Needs a Level Playing Field.” Journal of Democracy 21 (1): 57–68] theory of an ‘uneven Playing field,’ where democratic competition is undermined less by electoral fraud or repression than by unequal access to state institutions, resources and the media. The leaders of key opposition parties in both countries have been interviewed. It is subsequently argued that opposition parties are weakened by the dominant party system context, and so declaring their elections as ‘fair’ becomes problematic. Despite this, some of the opposition parties have adopted a number of strategies to remain relevant: cooperation, coalition and co-optation.

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