Accepted Paper:

Elections as drivers of corruption: informal governance and competitive authoritarianism.  


Elijah Osiro
Richard Sambaiga (University of Dar Es Salaam)

Paper short abstract:

We focus on elections and governance performance in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda noting corruption has increased with political contestation. We argue this has to do with elites’ increased reliance on informal practices of prebendalism and control to secure bases of support and neutralize opponents.

Paper long abstract:

In our research (, we have adopted a comparative perspective to explore the links between elections and corruption in competitive authoritarian regimes with case studies in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. Our focus are informal governance practices that supersede the normativity of the formal legal framework and facilitate the re-distribution of power and access public resources among networks of political and business elites as well as certain privileged social groups.

We find that informal practices have been employed around election time in the three countries with very concrete and similar goals.

First, informal power networks are activated and engaged in practices of prebendal cooptation to secure electoral success by cementing a winning coalition but also through the use of informal practices of control to demobilize the opposition.

Secondly, informal networks mobilise in order to finance campaign and other costs associated with the elections, including the distribution of resources among support bases (patronage and vote buying). In some cases financial constraints are addressed through what we have termed "horizontal co-optation" referring to particular business interests who contribute resources for financing electoral expenditures in the expectation of receiving financial rewards such as contracts and tax exemptions. In some other cases, resort to outright embezzlement serves the purpose, as indicated by grand corruption scandals in the three countries that have been associated with the intention to divert large sums for electoral purposes.

In our paper we will discuss these findings identifying common patterns across the three countries and use the perspective of informal governance to discuss the current challenges confronting these East African regimes.

Panel P034
The changing face of electoral manipulation in Africa