Many African countries replaced their military or single-party regimes with pluralist politics during the early 1990s. This led to the introduction and regularisation of multiparty elections for the selection of a country’s president or prime minister. Of course, in many places, elections were not enough to start genuine democratization processes, as non-democratic rulers rapidly learned how to manipulate the vote and survive in the new political environment. Yet empirical evidence from our new “Leadership change” dataset – covering all 49 sub-Saharan states since 1960 (or subsequent year of independence) to 2012 – shows that elections did alter quite profoundly the way ordinary Africans can influence the selection and ousting of their leaders. Coups are now a rarer phenomenon, leadership turnovers have become more frequent, and peaceful alternation in power through the ballot box, if still uncommon, is part of a new political landscape.
*Giovanni Carbone, Associate Professor of Political Science, Università degli Studi di Milano