Botswana: A minimalist democracy

Good, K and Taylor, I 2008, 'Botswana: A minimalist democracy', Democratization, vol. 15, no. 4, pp. 750-765.


Document type: Journal Article
Collection: Journal Articles

Title Botswana: A minimalist democracy
Author(s) Good, K
Taylor, I
Year 2008
Journal name Democratization
Volume number 15
Issue number 4
Start page 750
End page 765
Total pages 16
Publisher Routledge
Abstract Against all odds, Botswana was able to construct an electoral democracy, following a deviant transition. How and why Botswana made a transition to democracy and consolidated the system, as well as the limitations of the Botswana case in terms of accountability and democratic consolidation, is discussed in this article. The article argues that although the country posseses a functioning electoral democracy, it is marked by illiberal authoritarianism and presidentialism characterized by elitist top-down structures. This fits with what O'Donnell has described as enduring features of oligarchies, namely clientelism, particularism, and executive dominance. In Botswana these all serve to destabilize not only horizontal liabilities between and among state institutions but also to undermine a prescribed competitive spirit supposedly intrinsic to democracy. In light of the democratization of Namibia and South Africa, as well as across the southern African region more generally, Botswana's exceptionality has actually become less remarkable, opening up greater space for a closer engagement with the realities of Botswana's democratic credentials. This is important given the usual celebratory rhetoric around the country. Although the country's transition to democracy was deviant given the circumstances at independence, its consolidation has been marked by an elitism that undermines the rhetoric usually associated with Botswana, namely that of the 'African Miracle'.
Subject Political Theory and Political Philosophy
Keyword(s) consolidation
deviant democracy
elitism
Botswana
DOI - identifier 10.1080/13510340802191086
ISSN 1351-0347
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