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  • Print publication year: 2019
  • Online publication date: June 2019

2 - Legislative Development in Africa


This chapter provides a general overview of legislative development in Africa – from the colonial period to the present. The analysis includes a historical account of the creation and politics of colonial legislatures, an examination of how political development under colonialism conditioned postcolonial legislative development, and a documentation of contemporary variation in legislative institutional forms and strength in Africa. I find that African states that had a longer experience with colonial legislatures were more likely to exhibit higher levels of political development in the postcolonial period. They had fewer coups, kept continuously functional legislatures, were relatively more democratic, and were likely to have strong postcolonial legislatures. At the same time, the types of independence parties determined the nature of postcolonial intra-elite relations and legislative strength and independence. Countries that achieved independence under mass parties were likely to have weaker postcolonial legislatures. The structure of mass parties concentrated powers in the hands of chief executives, and increased the likelihood of the substitution of legislatures with parties. Elite parties had the opposite effect. By empowering elites, such parties increased the likelihood of the emergence of legislatures that served as the primary arena of intra-elite bargains over policy and governance rents.

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