What explains why protest movements refuse the support of opposition parties despite the correlation in their demands? Answers to this question make up the content of this paper. In recent years, protest movements have dominated the political space of several sub-Saharan African countries, many of which have claimed to have no partisan ties. Relying on insights from the detachment thesis, this paper argues that the nature of the strategies adopted by protest movements in relation to political parties depends on the nature of the country’s political settlements. The study uses the FixTheCountry protest movement in Ghana as a case study. After a discourse analysis into speeches and press statements, an analysis of 15 qualitative interviews conducted in Ghana, as well as a review of various secondary literature ranging from journal articles to books, this paper concludes that protest movements instrumentalise the competitive nature of a country’s political settlements to gain popular support from the citizenry. Given that only two political parties dominate Ghana’s political arena, the protest movement presents itself as non-partisan, a strategy intended to first, express distrust in both parties; and second, attract the attention of non-partisan citizens and disaffected supporters of both parties. The paper demonstrates that the nature of a country’s political settlements is a key determinant of the nature of the relationship between protest movements and political parties, both ruling and opposition ones. This paper’s findings contribute to our understanding of how contemporary African protest movements continue to shape and reshape their relationship with political parties and the relevance of a country’s political structure in the process.
Political parties, protest movements, political settlement, Ghana, FixTheCountry
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