Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Burkina Faso is a reminder that successful democracies need more than just multiparty elections

Landry Signé provides his insightful analysis on the Burkina Faso coup in this morning's Monkey Cage (I added a link to one of my posts that he must have forgot☺):
Even if observers in the international community were surprised by what some have called a “disaster for Africa,” this unconstitutional seizure of power was predictable, and if it didn’t happen before the elections, it could have happened after the elections. My research suggests this “disaster” is a result of weak horizontal accountability during the transition. Simply put, horizontal accountability is the ability of government institutions to check abuses by other branches of government and a system in which government institutions are independent and no agency or branch becomes too powerful compared to the others. Some may refer to this system as one with “checks and balances.” ...
Even before the coup attempt by the presidential guard, the legitimacy and impartiality of the transition was a concern for three reasons in particular. First, the transitional body was a hybrid of civilian and military rule, and not exclusively civilian. The military initially stole the transition after civil society and popular protests drove Compaoré from power, and the military managed to keep considerable power even after the appointment of a civilian president. Second, the transition process has been exclusive, despite the facade of inclusion of civil society leaders and organizations. In fact, candidates associated with the previous regime were systematically banned from the legislature and presidential candidacy, generating concerns about the fairness, inclusiveness and meaningfulness of the process. Finally, the presence of an excessively powerful and self-interested presidential guard has contributed to the failed transition.
Signé goes in depth into each of these three issues, and then makes a similar prediction to what I wrote yesterday: "A draft agreement offers amnesty to coup conspirators in exchange for a return to civilian rule; there are also expectations that the elections will be more inclusive and will be postponed to November."

He also includes an important prescription for future success - the importance of including more than just elections to ensure democratic stability: "Even as events continue to unfold, the instability since Compaoré’s reign began to falter has shown that focusing only on vertical accountability without ensuring suitable horizontal accountability can jeopardize sustainable democratic development in Burkina Faso."

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