Problems of Categorizing and Explaining Party Systems in Africa
Starting from controversial findings about the relationship between party systems and the prospects of democratic consolidation, this article argues that problems can only be properly addressed on the basis of a differentiated typology of party systems. Contradictory research results do not pose an ‘African puzzle’ but can be explained by different and inadequate approaches. We argue that a modified version of Sartori's typology of party systems provides an appropriate method for classifying African party systems. Based on Sartori's framework, a preponderance of predominant and dominant party systems is identified. This can partly be explained by the prevailing authoritarian nature of many multiparty regimes in Africa as well as by the ethnic plurality of African societies. High ethnic fragmentation is not transformed into highly fragmented party systems. This phenomenon can be attributed to the most frequent ‘ethnic congress party’ which is based on an ethnic elite coalition.
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