Democracy, Elections & Political Parties A Conceptual Overview with Special Emphasis on Africa

"This paper develops,in a manageable manner, a conceptual framework in order to adequately define the essentially contested concepts of democracy, elections and political parties. There is much overlap in these concepts which are abundantly used in both academic and policy-making circles, and it is undoubtedly essential to make distinctions between them if a nuanced understanding is to be gained. This paper establishes that democracy denotes mainly a form of political system in which citizens are effectively able to choose their leaders in competitive elections. Furthermore, this paper argues that elections, which need to be administered by impartial electoral institutions, watched over by independent judicial institutions and monitored by qualified observers, should not be conflated with democracy and should only be seen as its primary prerequisites. It also maintains that, despite falling short of both international and local expectations, African elections constitute a necessary condition for democracy to thrive. And, this paper defines political party as a political institution which is sensitive to the demands of particular constituencies, and has the ability to contest several elections."