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The Cleavage Model, Ethnicity and Voter Alignment in Africa: Conceptual and Methodological Problems Revisited


  • Gero Erdmann

    () (GIGA Institute of African Affairs)


Recent research on political parties and ethnicity has challenged the conventional wisdom about ethnicity as the major factor that explains voter alignment in Africa. The paper maintains that the cleavage model, although modified to include ethnicity, still provides heuristically the best foundation for the explanation of party formation and voting behaviour in Africa. It points out that inconclusive and contradicting research results about the salience of ethnicity can be attributed to a variety of unresolved methodological and conceptual problems linked to the ‘fluidity’ of the concept of ethnicity. To overcome these problems refined research designs and more sophisticated analytical tools are required. Finally, it is safe to assume that the relevance of ethnicity for the formation of party systems and voter alignment is not a uniform pattern across Africa, but will differ from one country to the other.

Suggested Citation

  • Gero Erdmann, 2007. "The Cleavage Model, Ethnicity and Voter Alignment in Africa: Conceptual and Methodological Problems Revisited," GIGA Working Paper Series 63, GIGA German Institute of Global and Area Studies.
  • Handle: RePEc:gig:wpaper:63

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Hyden, Goran & Leys, Colin, 1972. "Elections and Politics in Single-party Systems: the Case of Kenya and Tanzania," British Journal of Political Science, Cambridge University Press, vol. 2(04), pages 389-420, October.
    2. Gero Erdmann, 1999. "Parteien in Afrika. Versuch eines Neuanfangs in der Parteienforschung," Africa Spectrum, Institute of African Affairs, GIGA German Institute of Global and Area Studies, Hamburg, vol. 34(3), pages 375-393.
    3. repec:cup:apsrev:v:66:y:1972:i:01:p:68-90_13 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. repec:cup:apsrev:v:98:y:2004:i:04:p:529-545_04 is not listed on IDEAS
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    Cited by:

    1. Andreas Mehler, 2009. "Reshaping Political Space? The Impact of the Armed Insurgency in the Central African Republic on Political Parties and Representation," GIGA Working Paper Series 116, GIGA German Institute of Global and Area Studies.
    2. Michael Bratton & Mwangi S. Kimenyi, 2008. "Voting in Kenya: Putting Ethnicity in Perspective," Working papers 2008-09, University of Connecticut, Department of Economics.
    3. Mwangi S. Kimenyi & Roxana Gutierrez Romero, 2008. "Identity, Grievances, and Economic Determinants of Voting in the 2007 Kenyan Elections," Working papers 2008-38, University of Connecticut, Department of Economics.
    4. Marianne Kneuer & Andreas Mehler & Jonas Sell, 2015. "Conference Report: Neopatrimonialism, Democracy, and Party Research: The German and International Debate – In Remembrance of Gero Erdmann (1952–2014)," Africa Spectrum, Institute of African Affairs, GIGA German Institute of Global and Area Studies, Hamburg, vol. 50(2), pages 113-123.

    More about this item


    Africa; social cleavages; cleavage model; ethnicity; political parties; party systems;

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