NED Library 2024 Election Book List
2024 is a year full of elections! Check out these NED Library must-reads to learn more about the countries and regions where people will be casting their votes this year.
Two aspects of contemporary urban life in Africa are often described as sources of political change: the emergence of a large urban middle class and high levels of ethnic diversity and inter-ethnic social contact. Many expected that these factors would help spark a transition away from ethnic competition and clientelism toward more programmatic elections. Focusing on urban Ghana, this book shows that the growing middle class and high levels of ethnic diversity are not having the anticipated political effects. Instead, urban Ghana is stuck in a trap: clientelism and ethnic voting persist in many urban neighborhoods despite changes to the socio-economic characteristics and policy preferences of voters. Through a unique examination of intra-urban variation in patterns of electoral competition, Nathan explains why this trap exists, demonstrates its effects on political behavior, and explores how new democracies like Ghana can move past it.
Education and Empowered Citizenship in Mali by Jaimie Bleck
Primary school enrollment has nearly tripled in Mali since 1991, when the country made its first transition to multiparty democracy. Jaimie Bleck explores the effect of this expanded access to education by analyzing the relationship between parents’ and students’ respective experiences with schooling and their current participation in politics. In a nation characterized both by the declining quality of public education and by a growing number of accredited private providers, does education contribute substantially to the political knowledge and participation of its citizens? Are all educational institutions (public and private, Islamic and secular) equally capable of shaping democratic citizens? Education and Empowered Citizenship in Mali is informed by Bleck’s original survey of one thousand citizens, which she conducted in Mali before the 2012 coup d’e;tat, along with exit polls and interviews with parents, students, and educators. Her results demonstrate conclusively that education of any type plays an important role in empowering citizens as democratic agents. Simply put, students know more about politics than peers who have not attended school. Education also appears to bolster participation of parents. Bleck finds that parents who send their children to public school are more likely to engage in electoral politics than other Malian citizens. Furthermore, Bleck demonstrates that increasing levels of education are associated with increases in more engaged forms of political participation, including campaigning, willingness to run for office, and contacting government officials.
South Sudan’s Injustice System: Law and Activism on the Frontline by Rachel Ibreck
Coming into existence amid a wave of optimism in 2011, South Sudan has since slid into violence and conflict. Even in the face of escalating civil war, however, the people of the country continue to fight for justice, despite a widespread culture of corruption and impunity. Drawing on extensive new research, Rachel Ibreck examines people’s lived experiences as they navigate South Sudan’s fledgling justice system, as well as the courageous efforts of lawyers, activists, and ordinary citizens to assert their rights and hold the government to account.
In doing so, the author reveals how justice plays out in a variety of settings, from displacement camps to chiefs’ courts, and in cases ranging from communal land disputes to the country’s turbulent peace process. Based on a collaborative research project carried out with South Sudanese activists and legal practitioners, the book also demonstrates the value of conducting researching with, rather than simply about those affected by conflict. At heart, this is a people’s story of South Sudan – what works in this troubled country is what people do for themselves.
Democracy in Indonesia: From Stagnation to Regression? by Mudhoffir Abdil Mughis, Hicken Allen, Muhtadi Burhanuddin
Indonesia has long been hailed as a rare case of democratic transition and persistence in an era of global democratic setbacks. But as the country enters its third decade of democracy, such laudatory assessments have become increasingly untenable. The stagnation that characterized Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s second presidential term has given way to a more far-reaching pattern of democratic regression under his successor, Joko Widodo. This volume is the first comprehensive study of Indonesia’s contemporary democratic decline. Its contributors identify, explain and debate the signs of regression, including arbitrary state crackdowns on freedom of speech and organization, the rise of vigilantism, deepening political polarization, populist mobilization, the dysfunction of key democratic institutions, and the erosion of checks and balances on executive power. They ask why Indonesia, until recently considered a beacon of democratic exceptionalism, increasingly conforms to the global pattern of democracy in retreat.
Electoral politics in Sri Lanka: presidential elections, manipulation and democracy by S I Keethaponcalan
This volume examines and analyses electoral politics in Sri Lanka through the theoretical framework of manipulation. The following questions guided the study: how do political actors manipulate elections, and what are the salient features of electoral politics in Sri Lanka? Primary and secondary data formed the basis of the analysis, examining eight presidential elections. The research findings indicated that Sri Lankan governments, political parties and political leaders have taken advantage of a number of different types of electoral manipulation, including constitutional tinkering, field fixing, time fixing, vote suppression, process manipulation and resource manipulation. Through a close examination of recent presidential elections, research carried out for the volume found that elections are often associated with violence; presidential elections are mainly a majoritarian affair where minority communities play a marginal role; there is a significant gender imbalance, as women’s participation in the electoral process is very limited; in spite of the presence of a large number of candidates contesting the election, it always remains a two-way race; and amidst extensive manipulation and other problems, voter participation tends to be high. This volume will be a valuable resource for students, academics and researchers who focus on democracy, good governance, electoral studies and South Asian politics and history, and will enhance the conceptual foundation of democracy advocates and activists.
The struggle for democracy in mainland China, Taiwan and Hong Kong: Sharp Power and its discontents by Andreas Fulda
The key question at the heart of this book is to what extent have political activists in mainland China, Taiwan and Hong Kong made progress in their quest to liberalise and democratise their respective polities. Taking a long historical perspective, the book compares and contrasts the political development trajectory in the three regions from the early 1970s – from the election-driven liberalisation in Taiwan from 1969, the Democracy Wall Movement in mainland China in 1978, and the top-down political reforms of Governor Patten in Hong Kong after 1992 – until the present day. More specifically, it sets out the different strategies and tactics political activists have taken, assesses the lessons activists have learned from both successes and failures, and considers how these experiences have informed their struggles for democracy. Importantly, the book demonstrates that at the same time, throughout the period and earlier, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has been making use of “sharp power” – penetrating the political and information environments in Western democracies to manipulate debate and suppress dissenters living both inside and outside China – in order to strengthen its domestic position. The book discusses the nature of this sharp power, explores the rise of the security state within mainland China and examines the effectiveness of the approach, arguing that in Taiwan and Hong Kong the approach has been counterproductive, with civil society, campaigns for greater democracy and the flourishing of religion in part stimulated by the CCP’s sharp power practices.
Central and Eastern Europe
Beyond the Euromaidan: comparative perspectives on advancing reform in Ukraine by Henry E Hale, Robert W Orttung
Beyond the Euromaidan examines the prospects for advancing reform in Ukraine in the wake of the February 2014 Euromaidan revolution and Russian invasion. It examines six crucial areas where reform is needed: deep internal identity divisions, corruption, the constitution, the judiciary, plutocratic “oligarchs,” and the economy. On each of these topics, the book provides one chapter that focuses on Ukraine’s own experience and one chapter that examines the issue in the broader context of international practice. Placing Ukraine in comparative perspective shows that many of the country’s problems are not unique and that other countries have been able to address many of the issues currently confronting Ukraine. As with the constitution, there are no easy answers, but careful analysis shows that some solutions are better than others. Ultimately, the authors propose a series of reforms that can help Ukraine make the best of a bad situation. The book stresses the need to focus on reforms that might not have immediate effect, but that comparative experience shows can solve fundamental contextual challenges. Finally, the book shows that pressures from outside Ukraine can have a strong positive influence on reform efforts inside the country.
Frustrated Democracy in post-Soviet Azerbaijan by Audrey L Altstadt
Frustrated Democracy in Post-Soviet Azerbaijan follows a newly independent oil-rich former Soviet republic as it adopts a Western model of democratic government and then turns toward corrupt authoritarianism. Audrey L. Altstadt begins with the Nagorno-Karabagh War (1988-1994) which triggered Azerbaijani nationalism and set the stage for the development of a democratic movement. Initially successful, this government soon succumbed to a coup. Western oil companies arrived and money flowed in–a quantity Altstadt calls ‘almost unimaginable’–causing the regime to resort to repression to maintain its power. Despite Azerbaijan’s long tradition of secularism, political Islam emerged as an attractive alternative for those frustrated with the stifled democratic opposition and the lack of critique of the West’s continued political interference. Altstadt’s work draws on instances of censorship in the Azerbaijani press, research by embedded experts and nongovernmental and international organizations, and interviews with diplomats and businesspeople.
Weak strongman: the limits of power in Putin’s Russia by Timothy Frye
Media and public discussion tends to understand Russian politics as a direct reflection of Vladimir Putin’s seeming omnipotence or Russia’s unique history and culture. Yet Russia is remarkably similar to other autocracies — and recognizing this illuminates the inherent limits to Putin’s power. Weak Strongman challenges the conventional wisdom about Putin’s Russia, highlighting the difficult trade-offs that confront the Kremlin on issues ranging from election fraud and repression to propaganda and foreign policy. Drawing on three decades of his own on-the-ground experience and research as well as insights from a new generation of social scientists that have received little attention outside academia, Timothy Frye reveals how much we overlook about today’s Russia when we focus solely on Putin or Russian exceptionalism. Frye brings a new understanding to a host of crucial questions: How popular is Putin? Is Russian propaganda effective? Why are relations with the West so fraught? Can Russian cyber warriors really swing foreign elections? In answering these and other questions, Frye offers a highly accessible reassessment of Russian politics that highlights the challenges of governing Russia and the nature of modern autocracy. Rich in personal anecdotes and cutting-edge social science, Weak Strongman offers the best evidence available about how Russia actually works.
Latin America and Caribbean
After insurgency: revolution and electoral politics in El Salvador by Ralph Sprenkels
El Salvador’s 2009 presidential elections marked a historical feat: Frente Farabundo Martí para la Liberación Nacional (FMLN) became the first former Latin American guerrilla movement to win the ballot after failing to take power by means of armed struggle. In 2014, former comandante Salvador Sánchez Cerén became the country’s second FMLN president. After Insurgency focuses on the development of El Salvador’s FMLN from armed insurgency to a strong and competitive political party. At the end of the war in 1992, the historical ties between insurgent veterans enabled the FMLN to reconvert into a relatively effective electoral machine. However, these same ties also fueled factional dispute and clientelism. Drawing on in-depth ethnographic fieldwork, Ralph Sprenkels examines El Salvador’s revolutionary movement as a social field, developing an innovative theoretical and methodological approach to the study of insurgent movements in general and their aftermath in particular. By extensively analyzing the movement’s internal politics, the book draws attention to insurgency’s persistent legacies, both for those involved as well as for Salvadoran politics at large. Sprenkels reveals the personal perspectives and stories of former revolutionaries who must now contend with a postrevolutionary nation in El Salvador. He balances the personal narratives with a larger historical study of the civil war and of the transformation process of wartime forces into postwar political contenders. In documenting the shift from armed struggle to electoral politics, the book adds to ongoing debates about contemporary Latin America politics, the “pink tide,” and post-neoliberal electoralism. It also charts new avenues in the study of insurgency and its aftermath.
Local Mexico: democratic transitions in an authoritarian context by Patricia Olney
Vicente Fox’s 2000 election to the presidency in Mexico marked the end of more than 70 years of rule by the PRI, overturning what some observers referred to as “the perfect dictatorship.” Since then, there has been much debate about the reasons for the PAN’s successful challenge to decades of authoritarian rule. Patricia Olney makes a rich, nuanced contribution to that debate, explaining Mexico’s transition to democracy from the perspective of municipal-level politics.
Autocracy rising: how Venezuela transitioned to authoritarianism by Javier Corrales
An alarming number of countries that once were seemingly stable democracies have veered in recent years toward authoritarianism—a trend known as “democratic backsliding.” One of those countries in Venezuela, which enjoyed periods of democratically elected governments in the latter half of the twentieth century but in the past two decades has increasingly descended into autocratic rule, coupled with economic collapse. Autocracy Rising, written by a veteran scholar of Venezuela and Latin American politics generally explores how and why this happened.
Middle East and Northern Africa
Mauritania & Algeria
Democratisation in the Maghreb by J N C Hill
The book offers fresh insight into the recent political development and contrasting experiences of four Maghreb countries: Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco and Mauritania. The Arab Spring affected them in different ways. Tunisia underwent profound change as Ben Ali was overthrown in a fortnight. Yet in Algeria, President Bouteflika won an unprecedented fourth term in office despite being too ill to campaign. What explains these variations? Why did Ben Ali’s regime fall and Bouteflika’s survive? Why has Morocco not gone the same way as Tunisia? And what of Mauritania, the often forgotten other Maghreb country? This book addresses these and other questions by using Steven Levitsky and Lucan Way’s celebrated model for examining political transitions to analyse and compare the political development of Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco and Mauritania over the last ten years.
Several thousand new civil society organisations were legally established in Tunisia following the 2010-11 uprising that forced the long-serving dictator, Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, from office. These organisations had different visions for a new Tunisia, and divisive issues such as the status of women, homosexuality, and human rights became highly contested. For some actors, the transition from authoritarian rule allowed them to have a strong voice that was previously muted under the former regimes. For others, the conflicts that emerged between the different groups brought new repressions and exclusions – this time not from the regime, but from ‘civil society’. Vulnerable populations and the organisations working with them soon found themselves operating on uncertain terrain, where providing support to marginalised and routinely criminalised communities brought unexpected challenges. Here, Edwige Fortier explores this remarkable period of transformation and the effects of opening up public space in this way.