Do Party Systems Make Democracy Work? A Comparative Test of Party-system Characteristics and Democratization in Francophone Africa

  • Matthias Basedau
  • Alexander Stroh


According to the functionalist argument, party systems that show moderate fragmentation, high institutionalization and rather low polarization are more conducive to democracy than others. This hypothesis is systematically tested in four country cases in Francophone West Africa that share many historical, social and economic characteristics but differ in their level of democratization, thus providing an at least approximate most-similar-systems design that is best suited to isolating the impact of party-system characteristics. The employment of pertinent and innovative indicators for the three dimensions of party systems reveals that the central hypothesis must be rejected. At best, four indicators confirm the assumptions, while 13 show no relationship and five show inverse findings. The case with the most favourable fragmentation and institutionalization values, Niger, has in between experienced a substantial decline in democracy. The paper concludes that the link between party systems and democracy is, at least in Africa, less simple and straightforward than the literature suggests.


Political Party Party System Opposition Parti Democratic Consolidation Seat Share 
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Authors and Affiliations

  • Matthias Basedau
  • Alexander Stroh

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