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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Playing to Win: Clientelist Campaign Strategy in Southern Africa


One major mark of a strong democracy is the use of policy-based rather than clientelist campaign strategies—but in southern Africa, we still see political parties in relatively strong democracies using clientelist strategies. I aim to build on the small existing pool of literature on this topic by performing a comparative study of campaign strategies in South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Malawi, and Zambia. I then examine how political parties in those countries use clientelist and policy-based strategies in general elections and what relationship strategy has to economic development and educational quality over time and relative to other countries in the same region. The data come from news sources, party manifestos, and candidate speeches of major parties in the countries used. I find that although they are harder to observe within countries across time, clientelism rates are lowest in countries with higher levels of economic development and educational quality. This trend is most clearly seen when analyzing inter-country differences. This study will hopefully provide further explanation regarding how political and state infrastructure can affect the motivations of political parties and take another step toward understanding and strengthening democracy.

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