This work deals with the region of southern Africa in relation to democratic consolidation, dynamic modes of representation, and the mitigation of ethnic (and regional) conflict. It starts with the premise that all three objectives are desirable, and poses the question: which institutional arrangements will best facilitate effective representation, political stability, and interethnic accommodation in the emerging democracies of southern Africa? The answer to this question is sought through a comparative analysis of the effect of institutional structures in five case study countries – Malawi, Namibia, South Africa, Zambia, and Zimbabwe – chosen because all have made the transition from non-democratic government to multiparty competition with varying degrees of success, and they represent at least half of the southern African region, so they comprise a useful cross section of democratic types, societal dynamics, and institutional arrangements. The study uses a hybrid methodology drawn from both new institutionalist and cultural, ‘rich descriptive’, traditions, hence, it utilizes comparative electoral systems methodology; at the same time, the discussions of the case studies are based on detailed social and politically historical descriptions. The Introduction is arranged in five main parts which: address the relevance of question of the best institutional arrangements for democratization; define the dependent (object of study), intervening, and independent (macro-institutional explanatory) variables used in the study; explain why the focus of the study is on political institutions, and discuss various alternative approaches that could have been taken; and give an outline of the contents of the chapters that follow.
Keywords: case studies, comparative electoral systems methodology, conflict management, democratic consolidation, democratization, ethnic accommodation, ethnic conflict, institutional arrangements, institutional variables, Malawi, methodology, Namibia, political institutions, political stability, South Africa, southern Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe
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