The Impact of Elections: Voting, Political Behaviour and Democracy in Sub-Saharan Africa

UN Photo/Tim McKulka

This research project analyses the chequered history of elections in sub-Saharan Africa. While ballots in much of the continent continue to be linked to corruption, violence and political instability, recent elections in some countries have apparently confirmed a democratic transition. Combining the techniques of history and political science, the project will re-examine the relationship between an individual's experience of elections and their political attitudes and behaviours. Do particular experiences of elections predispose individuals to reject malpractice or, alternatively to accept, or even demand it? If so, do voters become one of the barriers to, as well as the agents of democratic consolidation? The project will focus on three African countries whose political and electoral histories have been very different - Ghana, Kenya and Uganda. Our findings will foster greater understanding of democratisation in these three countries and beyond, and will inform the continued efforts of policy-makers and practitioners to promote transparent and accountable government through free and fair elections.

Project Objectives

The project is primarily concerned with questions about the management of elections, public attitudes towards and involvement in elections, and the performance of democracy, and the findings will be of great relevance to donor and civil society efforts to strengthen electoral systems and the quality of democracy around the world.

The objectives are:

  • To understand the extent to which electoral practice has been both driven and constrained by popular expectations and demands.
  • To gain insights into the way in which practices of elections and electoral manipulation in the past has shaped political behaviour today.
  • To investigate the role that political parties and international election observers have played in strengthening/weakening democratic norms around elections.
  • To share findings with a broad range of academics, researchers and policy makers in the UK, the US, East Africa, and beyond.

External Partners

Gabrielle Lynch from the Politics and International Studies at Warwick University

Justin Willis from the Department of History, Durham University

Project Outputs

See a series of blog posts on Democracy in Africa. This blog is a resource for the study of Democracy in Africa.

Democracy and its discontents: understanding Kenya's 2013 elections by Nic Cheeseman, Gabrielle Lynch and Justin Willis. The article is published in the Journal of Eastern African Studies

Researching Democracy, Peace and Human Rights in Africa by Dr Nic Cheeseman. This article was written for the Skoll Foundation, set up to promote social entrepreneurship


Principal Investigator

Nic Cheeseman


Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)


Research Grant

Project Start / End

Jan 2014 - Jun 2017

News & Publications