The Moral Economy of Elections in Africa
Democracy, Voting and Virtue
Do elections turn people into democratic citizens? Elections have long been seen as a way to foster democracy, development and security in Africa, with many hoping that the secret ballot would transform states. Adopting a new approach that focusses on the moral economy of elections, Nic Cheeseman, Gabrielle Lynch and Justin Willis show how elections are shaped by competing visions of what it means to be a good leader, bureaucrat or citizen. Using a mixed-methods study of elections in Ghana, Kenya and Uganda, they explore moral claims made by officials, politicians, civil society, international observers and voters themselves. This radical new lens reveals that elections are the site of intense moral contestation, which helps to explain why there is such vigourous participation in processes that often seem flawed. Demonstrating the impact of these debates on six decades of electoral practice, they explain why the behaviour of those involved so frequently transgresses national law and international norms, as well as the ways in which such transgressions are evaluated and critiqued – so that despite the purported significance of 'vote-buying', the candidates that spend the most do not always win.