Accepted paper:

Post-party Politics, Forum Shopping and Liberia's 2017 Elections

Authors:

Robtel Neajai Pailey (University of Oxford)
David Harris (University of Bradford)

Paper short abstract:

In this paper, we argue that Liberia currently exists in a post-war arena of 'post-party' politics where a profound disregard for parties is the norm, and in which the electorate and politicians forum shop for candidates and/or political configurations they presume will deliver the best results.

Paper long abstract:

Liberia's 2017 elections represented a watershed moment in the country's political history. In addition to completing the first democratic transfer of power from one president to another since 1944, it resulted in wide representation across many different parties and independents as well as high levels of legislative turn-overs. Additionally, these polls brought forward political neophytes fronting parties as standard bearers, unprecedented numbers of party reconfigurations, increased levels of defections, and politicians/parties losing abysmally in presumed ethno-regional bases. In this paper, we argue that Liberia currently exists in a post-war arena of 'post-party' politics where a profound disregard for parties is the norm, and in which the electorate and politicians alike forum shop for candidates and/or political configurations they presume will deliver the best results for them as individuals, or for their communities and country. Although literature exploring electoral trends in Africa tends to emphasize ethno-regionalism and patronage as drivers and constraints in the choices of voters and politicians, we demonstrate instead that Liberians make relatively informed, strategic decisions about political alliances and ballot casting thereby complicating allegiances to ethnicity and region. By further eschewing party loyalties, Liberians have gradually become astute forum shoppers in a political marketplace that makes running for office and voting complex undertakings.

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Stream:
Politics and International Relations
Regime change, democratic experiments and trends in succession politics in Africa