Still no Alternative? Popular views of the Opposition in Southern Africa's One-party Dominant Regimes

Following decades of authoritarian rule, multiparty democracy re-emerged in a “wave” of democratization in sub-Saharan Africa during the early 1990s. Twenty-nine countries in the region held founding elections – first competitive elections after an authoritarian period – between 1989 and 1994, of which 16 led to full democratic transitions. Today, African political regimes vary widely, from the liberal democracies cited above to repressive autocracies. Given the importance of party competition to a healthy democracy, a major criticism of African political regimes concerns their relatively few electoral alternations. Although the number of political alternations in sub-Saharan Africa increased from three in 1961-1989 to 39 in 1990-2012, the latter number represents only 23% of election results during this period. Even among multiparty democracies, many African countries have yet to experience a single peaceful alternation of power. Five Southern African countries have democracies dominated by parties that emerged from liberation movements and have governed since independence: Botswana, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, and Zimbabwe. This paper uses Afrobarometer survey data to analyze popular attitudes toward political opposition parties in these countries.