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Conference on Political Parties in Southern Africa

Conference on political parties in Southern Africa
Cape Town

December 10-11, 2018

Political parties are integral to the quality of representative democracy, including in contemporary Africa. Our understanding of political parties is driven primarily by the experiences of the mostly highly institutionalized parties in the democracies of the global North. In contemporary Africa, most political parties appear to be much less institutionalized – or are they institutionalized in different ways? This conference provides an opportunity to take stock of what we know about – and how we understand – political parties in Southern Africa, with a primary focus on Zambia, Malawi, Botswana and Tanzania.

The conference will bring together scholars from the region and beyond. Topics to be covered include the following:

  • How are parties structured? What infrastructure or organisational structure do they have at national and local levels? What are their formal and informal leadership structures? Do they have members? What financial and other resources do they have, and from where?
  • What is the relationship between the ‘party’ and its (election) candidates (and their networks), at national and local levels? How are candidates selected? How and why do politicians defect from one party to another?
  • How do parties campaign during elections? How and why do they use (or not use) advertising (billboards? Newspapers? Other media?), rallies, social media, door-to-door contact, etc? What do parties do – if anything – between elections?
  • Do parties have explicit or implicit ideological or policy platforms? If so, how are these debated or formulated? What are the external influences on platforms? How are they communicated?
  • How are parties researched? How should they be researched? What are the challenges and pitfalls for fieldwork and research?

The Institute has limited funding available for presenters of papers. If you are interested in presenting a paper at the conference, please submit your paper (or an abstract that sets out in detail what the paper will cover and what empirical material will be used) to  politicalpartiesafrica@uct.ac.za. Applications will be accepted through October 1st.