The State of Liberal Democracy With Regard to Elections and Political Stability in Africa: Bridging the Gap Between Theory and Practice in Tanzania and Kenya


Paul Mtasigazya


This study explores the state of liberal democracy and political stability in Africa. In particular it intends to assess what is said about liberal democracy in relation to free and fair election, political stability and the politics of ethnicity in Tanzania and Kenya and the reality happening on the ground (the practice) in East African countries. The rationale for undertaking this analysis is that the East African countries have experienced political transformation: for instance, for much of the post-colonial period East African countries tended to live under one-party regime, but since 1990s East African countries embraced multiparty system. This study pays attention to assessing the outcomes of liberal democracy in East African countries in particular examining the extent to which the liberal democracy promotes free and fair elections, political stability and the mitigation of the politics of ethnicity.

This study employed a comparative analysis, in which it compared the extent to which liberal democracy is practiced in Tanzania and Kenya and how far the above-mentioned parameters are realized under the broad spectrum of liberal democracy. The methods of data collection were interviews and documentary review and the discussion of the findings was organized around the sub-themes of this study. The period covered in this discussion is the contemporary period from 1990’s to 2019. The findings indicate that even though African countries have adopted liberal democracy, in some of the East African countries like Kenya, political stability and free and fair elections have not been fully realized, while in Tanzania the experience indicates that political stability is relatively realized after elections. This study concludes that even if the institutions of liberal democracy have gradually developed with partial free and fair elections, the manifestations of political instability still exist in some of the East African countries, as shown by the election violence in Kenya comparatively to Tanzania. Therefore, the interface between the liberal democracy and political stability has not been sufficiently realized in the liberal democratic tradition. This study recommends that elections as one of the pillars of liberal democracy should be properly and fairly instituted, so that the role of liberal democracy is realized in fostering peace and tranquility.


Liberal Democracy, Political Stability, Elections and Ethnicity




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