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Michelle Kuenzi and Gina Lambright, "Party Systems and Democratic Consolidation in Africa's Electoral Regimes," Party Politics, 11 (July, 2005), 423-446.

First Paragraph:
That political parties are necessary ingredients of democratic governance is accepted as an incontrovertible fact among most political observers. Similarly, party system institutionalization has been widely viewed as a requisite for the consolidation of democracy. In contrast, the effects of different party system characteristics on democracy have been sharply contested. For example, some scholars argue that multiparty systems diminish the clarity of choices before voters, undermine governmental accountability and responsibility, and polarize the political landscape. Others contend that multiparty systems enhance the quality of democracy in a polity by increasing the choices before voters, augmenting the representation of different groups, and mitigating the likelihood of civil strife. The effects of different levels of legislative volatility have also been difficult to establish. We hope to contribute to these debates by reporting the results of our study on the relationship between three party system characteristics (legislative volatility, the degree to which parties have stable roots in society, and the number of parliamentary parties) and the level of democracy in 33 sub-Saharan African countries. We find that both stability, in terms of the stability of parties' roots in society, and competition, in terms of the number of parties, have a positive association with democracy in African countries. Our results highlight the tension and potential trade-offs between stability and competition in the largely inchoate party systems of Africa.

Figures and Tables:
Table 1. Descriptives for party system, democracy, and control variables
Table 2. OLS estimates of level of democracy models
Table 3. OLS estimates of democracy, full models
Table 4. Predicted scores for combined polity scores
Table 5. OLS estimates of level of democracy, full models
Appendix: Country, legislative systems, and electoral formula

Last Paragraph:
Some have questioned the extent to which democracy is possible in or even appropriate for Africa, and others have been skeptical about the meaningfulness of Africa's democratic transitions (e.g. Ake, 1996). Mozaffar (1998), however, shows that the democratization process has rendered countries more democratic. We feel that democratization in Africa is meaningful. The results of our study indicate that party system characteristics are related to the quality of democracy in Africa's electoral regimes. Our hypothesis regarding the number of parties is especially strongly supported by the results. Our findings also highlight the tension and potential trade-offs between stability and competition in Africa's largely inchoate party systems.