The project is guided by two basic questions:
- What are the historical-institutional, path-dependent causes of different transition outcomes? We want to understand why some regimes have remained democratic, while others have become hybrid and authoritarian following a process of liberalization and democratic elections.
- What are the causes of the continued existence and institutionalization – that is, the path-dependent stabilization – of the different regime types?
Contribution to International Research
Hybrid regimes are a topic of international research that has rarely been systematically investigated. Only in recent years have they become a more frequent subject in scholarly publications. By applying historical institutionalism to the differential regime development in Africa, we are breaking new ground. With its comparative research design and its case selection, the project also contributes to the general democratic transition debate.
Research Design and Methods
The project investigates the emergence and endurance of hybrid regimes in a comparative manner. It thus contributes to an explanation of the different regime types – democratic, hybrid, and authoritarian. The systematic comparison includes two democracies (Ghana and Benin), two hybrid regimes (Niger and Zambia) and two authoritarian regimes (Togo and Cameroon). The comparison is based on narrative causal analyses of each case, which are applied to identify path-dependent developments. The key aim is to discover the critical junctures and causal mechanisms that contributed to the specific development path. The methods necessary to do so are process tracing and pattern matching.
For the empirical investigation we have created a specific historical-institutionalist framework that conceptualizes regimes as being composed of partial regimes and their various institutions. This framework has been presented at international conferences and provides the structure for the analysis of the rich empirical material we have collected. One general conclusion is that formal institutions, though often only weakly institutionalized, seem to be more important in African politics than scholars usually expect. The conventional wisdom holds that informal institutions matter much more than formal ones.