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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:It's my party: opposition politics, party motivation and electoral strategy in Namibia
Author:Cooper, Ian
Periodical:Journal of Southern African Studies (ISSN 1465-3893)
Geographic term:Namibia
Subjects:electoral systems
political opposition
opposition parties
External link:https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/03057070.2014.888901
Abstract:In Namibia, opposition parties play a vitally important role in the processes by which groups are represented, institutions are legitimized and ruling elites held to account. Yet authors have so far neglected to identify and conceptualize the objectives driving opposition behaviour. Political theorists from Downs to de Swaan have argued that all parties are driven by a desire to influence policy, form a governing majority or capture ministerial office. This paper demonstrates that none of these three factors is adequate to explain party motivation in Namibia. It shows instead that most opposition parties are driven by the desire to capture a foothold in parliament and that, consequently, presidential elections are often regarded as a 'waste' of time and resources. This orientation is traced to three variables. First, Namibia's adoption of a distinct electoral system at each tier of government has created a powerful incentive to contest parliamentary office. This institutional factor is reinforced by two further variables. On the one hand, parliamentary representation offers the most attractive remunerative package available to an opposition politician. On the other hand, opposition parties have failed to attract private sources of finance and are, therefore, reliant upon a State funding formula linked to parliamentary representation. The resulting preoccupation with parliamentary representation has had two effects. First, Namibia's dominant-party system is strengthened by opposition politicians' lack of interest in mounting an effective challenge to it. Second, opposition parties have tended to mobilize electoral support not around multi-ethnic 'grand alliances', but around appeals to ethnic minority identity. Indeed, Namibia's recent proliferation of mono-ethnic parties has coincided with - and may even have reinforced - a resurgence of ethno-nationalist sentiment and concomitant decline in identification with the nation-State. Notes, ref., sum. [Journal abstract]