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Mozambique and Kenya are examples of African countries that show signs of progress towards achieving self-enforcing constitutions. Towards the end of this period, political and economic reforms were introduced, which resulted in a movement towards democratic rule. External assistance particularly from the United Nations played a prominent role in the transformation process Weinstein — At independence there was a single-party authoritarian regime that made little distinction between party structures and the functioning of the state.

The role of self-enforcing constitutional rules

He suggested several constitutional revisions, including some that made the state more independent from the party Luiz et al. The Constitution allowed all citizens to participate in political processes Pereira — one of the important requirements for a self-enforcing political equilibrium identified by Weingast Giving effect to this principle, steps were taken in to enhance the functioning of political parties. According to Manning , the general elections were the least democratic yet.

The adoption of new regulations violated the principle of universal participation by inhibiting small opposition parties from contesting elections. The next few years may well reveal whether citizens have formed sufficiently strong pacts to constrain the powers of the state. In this regard, Dzinesa and Motsamai argue that civil society plays a critical role in Mozambique, especially during election periods. Compared with some other African states, Kenya has managed a fair degree of stability since independence Hornsby This was the case despite changes in the political system and crises in some neighbouring countries.

In the country revised certain oppressive laws which limited free speech and assembly dating from the colonial period, as part of a cross-party parliamentary reform initiative. This is an example of better citizen rights, as captured by the first condition for facts leading to self-enforcing constitutions identified by Weingast. Kenya provides an example of how society can act as a countervailing force to government. The presidential elections were heavily criticised by international observers, who suggested that they did not meet regional or international standards and were beneficial to the incumbent president Mwai Kibaki Jennings Yet the country was able to reach a diplomatic resolution that united the two rivals in a coalition government.

This power-sharing arrangement was entrenched in the constitution. This is an example of parties that were willing to change their behaviour when others did likewise, i. According to the agreement, Kibaki and Odinga agreed to share power. Eventually a new constitution was adopted in Jennings — Kenya is unfortunately also an example of a country with a strong interconnection between ethnicity and party allegiance Broadberry and Gardner The result is that inter-party competition in elections is characterised as a competition between ethnic groups.

The link in Kenya between ethnic violence and elections highlights the dangers of a divided society. In Kenyans voted for a new constitution in a national referendum. The referendum saw a 72 percent turnout, and the proportions of the electorate that voted for and against the new constitution amounted to 67 percent and 31 percent, respectively Githinji and Holmquist The adoption of the new constitution marked the end of a protracted process. Whereas most powers were controlled by the presidency under the constitution, the new constitution made politicians more accountable to the electorate.

Time will tell whether the constitution will hold government accountable for its decisions and actions. The examples discussed above indicate that the constitutional arrangements adopted in the countries in question were incomplete. In these cases, the conditions for self-enforcing political equilibria were not satisfied.

The fact that political stability still eludes these countries suggests that a self-enforcing equilibrium has not yet been achieved. Botswana is widely regarded as one of the most stable democracies in Africa. One of the respects in which it differs from the previous examples is that its male citizens had participated in political decision-making even before Botswana became a protectorate of Britain.

Political decisions were made in an open environment that allowed everyone to express their views. This perceived openness facilitated a smooth transition to a democratic government after independence. Post-independence Botswana still used discussions in local communities to provide the government with feedback before new policies were implemented.

As pointed out by Mgadla and Scapera , openness and consultation have long been prominent aspects of politics in Botswana. There were limits to the openness, however: the Khoisan a minority group was excluded from such political expression. The transition to a democratic system in Botswana was not altogether without problems. For example, at independence the pre-colonial chiefs lost most of their powers Holm To counter discontent with such a move, a House of Chiefs, similar to the House of Lords in Britain, was created to provide them with a safe environment to discuss their ideas and give feedback on possible policy changes.

The chiefs no longer had executive powers, but made good use of their power to express concerns or support for policy changes. Not all the chiefs were happy with this new arrangement and were active in voicing their discontent with the government. Their first loyalty was toward their village communities and not to the central government. If they were under the impression that a new policy would divide their community or be to their detriment, they did everything in their power to prevent it from being implemented Holm — These acts of resistance were not suppressed, and this shows how society can form a pact against government Colclough and McCarthy Chiefs were allowed to enter the democratic process in a more formal manner, by being eligible for a seat in Parliament.

Due to the strict rules on this, including having to give up their statutory income, only one chief Chief Bathoen risked standing for Parliament. He succeeded, and even ousted the then vice-president, Quett Masire. Due to the high cost of entry giving up their income as chiefs , only the best-educated and most capable chiefs, who knew they had a good chance of success in the elections, participated in the election process Holm Following several decades during which violent civil conflict was common in African countries, the period from onwards has been marked by a notable spreading and deepening of adherence to democratic principles on the continent.

It argues that democratisation should contribute to a reduction in the incidence of civil war in Africa, provided that the constitutional rules underpinning the new democratic systems become self-enforcing so that governments have incentives to adhere to these rules. The key requirement for self-enforcing constitutions is that citizens should solve their coordination problems in order to be able to act in unison whenever governments threaten fundamental constitutional rules.

International organisations, such as the United Nations and the African Union, can contribute to the consolidation of the democratisation process in Africa by emphasising the importance of self-enforcing constitutions. In the final instance, however, external parties cannot create or sustain such institutions.


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Abstract Following several decades during which violent civil conflict was common in African countries, the period from onwards was marked by a spreading and deepening of adherence to democratic principles. Introduction Violent conflict has harrowing societal effects. Figure 1: Polity IV democracy scores of African countries, and Source: Marshall and Jagger This paper discusses the long-run implications for civil conflict in Africa of this partial widening and deepening of democracy.

An economic perspective on the role of constitutional rules Some economic theories of political institutions model constitutions as contracts that regulate the relationship between governments and their constituents for an early statement of this view, see Buchanan and Tullock Self-enforcing constitutional rules The notion of self-enforcing constitutions remains less well explored than the normative aspects of constitutional design — such as the relationship between the legislative and the executive branches of government e.

Hardin argues that: … a constitution does not depend for its enforcement on external sanctions or bootstrapping commitments founded in nothing but supposed or hypothetical agreement. Central African Republic The recurring pattern of conflict in the case of the Central African Republic is another example of the effects of the non-establishment of a self-enforcing political equilibrium. Mozambique Mozambique and Kenya are examples of African countries that show signs of progress towards achieving self-enforcing constitutions.

Kenya Compared with some other African states, Kenya has managed a fair degree of stability since independence Hornsby Botswana Botswana is widely regarded as one of the most stable democracies in Africa. Concluding comments Following several decades during which violent civil conflict was common in African countries, the period from onwards has been marked by a notable spreading and deepening of adherence to democratic principles on the continent. Institutions as a fundamental cause of long-run growth.

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