Why have seemingly similar African countries developed very different forms of democratic party systems? Despite virtually ubiquitous conditions that are assumed to be challenging to democracy - low levels of ecomic development, high ethnic heterogeneity, and weak state capacity - nearly two dozen African countries have maintained democratic competition since the early 1990s. Yet the forms of party system competition vary greatly: from highly stable, nationally organized, well-institutionalized party systems to incredibly volatile, particularistic parties in systems with low institutionalization. To explain their divergent development, Rachel Beatty Riedl points to earlier authoritarian strategies to consolidate support and maintain power. The initial stages of democratic opening provide an opportunity for authoritarian incumbents to attempt to shape the rules of the new multiparty system in their own interests, but their power to do so depends on the extent of local support built up over time.
Rachel Beatty Riedl is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at Northwestern University, Illinois. Riedl is an Executive Committee member of the Program of African Studies; is affiliated with the Program in Comparative-Historical Social Science; serves as a Faculty Associate in Equality, Development, and Globalization Studies at the Buffett Center for International and Comparative Studies; and is a Faculty Associate at the Institute for Policy Research. She has also served as a visiting postdoctoral fellow in the Program on Democracy at the Whitney and Betty MacMillan Center for International and Area Studies at Yale University, Connecticut. Her work has been published in such journals as Comparative Political Studies and the African Conflict and Peacebuilding Review. She has consulted for USAID, the State Department, and the World Bank on governance reforms throughout Sub-Saharan Africa. Riedl has been the recipient of fellowships and grants from the MacArthur Foundation, the Kellogg Institute for International Studies at the University of Notre Dame, and the Princeton Institute for International and Regional Studies. Her dissertation was awarded an honorable mention for the Juan Linz prize for best dissertation in comparative democratization from the APSA in 2009.
Winner of African Politics Conference Group Best Book Award 2013-2014. Shortlisted for American Political Science Association Comparative Democratization Section Best Book Award 2015.