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An alien inheritance

Colonial powers created African states with arbitrary borders and unsuitable systems of "winner-takes-all" multi-party electoral democracy. As recent elections show, this has been a failure. It is time to develop an African form of democracy

By Richard Dowden   September 2008

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Can electoral democracy work in Africa? After catastrophically bad elections in Nigeria, Kenya and Zimbabwe, many people, both inside and outside the continent, are starting to have doubts. There is certainly no lack of elections—almost all the continent’s 53 countries are multi-party democracies and since the beginning of 2007 they have held 35 presidential or parliamentary elections—just not very much real democracy. Since multi-party democracy swept across the world after the end of the cold war, only three sitting African presidents have run for re-election, lost and retired gracefully:…

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