From the Great Lakes to the Great Rift Valley: Does Strategic Economic Policy Explain the 2009 Malawi Election?
Ethno-regional voting cleavages have featured in a number of sub-Saharan African states during the third wave of democratization following the end of the Cold War.While the causes and consequences of these cleavages are well studied, there have been surprisingly few attempts to understand how strategies of pan-ethnic or pan-regional coalition building based on distributive economic policies could be employed to secure national electoral coalitions. In this paper we examine if in the 2009 Malawian parliamentary elections the newly-formed national party, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), led by the President Binguwa Mutharika used its incumbent position to promote an economic policy based on food security in order to overcome traditional ethno-regional voting patterns and win a nationwide electoral majority. After presenting a formal model of a optimal allocation of an economic resource to overcome ethnic bias and induce vote-switching, we use district-level data in a system of equations to analyze if strategic allocation within the national fertilizer subsidy program contributed to the nation-wide electoral victory of the DPP.
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