Accepted paper:

"He is now one of us". Co-ethnicity by endorsement and the symbolic conferral of leadership during election campaigns in Africa


Elena Gadjanova (University of Exeter)

Paper short abstract:

This paper examines the practice of cross-ethnic endorsements during election rallies in presidential campaigns in Africa and traces its implications for presidential candidates' reverse ethnic coattails and electoral success.

Paper long abstract:

In Africa's highly ethnically-diverse states, presidential candidates must ensure cross-ethnic support to win elections. In addition to vote-buying and co-opting local leaders, recent work has drawn attention to the importance of direct appeals to voters during election campaigns. When addressing members from communities other than their own, presidential contenders often appear surrounded by "local notables" from the groups whose votes are being sought. Endorsements of the presidential candidates by these figures are heavily publicized, ritualized, and celebrated. In this paper, I examine the importance of this practice of public cross-ethnic endorsements for politics in Africa's highly diverse states. I develop the notion of "co-ethnicity by endorsement" and highlight the ways, in which it contributes to the reverse ethnic coat-tails of presidential candidates. Drawing on rally recordings, newspaper reports, and archival sources from Ghana and Kenya, I trace the ways in which the practice has shifted between the single-party and multi-party era. The research helps to explain the apparent puzzle of ethnic block voting for non-coethnics and has implications for which cleavages and identities are emphasized in multi-party elections in Africa.

panel Pol27
Playing to the crowd: performance and the politics of campaign rallies