How context mediates the effects of electoral institutions on the structure of party systems in Africa's emerging democracies

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Do electoral institutions in Africa’s emerging democracies impact the strategic coordination among voters, candidates and parties and shape the structure of party systems independently or are their effects mediated by contextual variables? The paper attempts to answer this question through analysis of systematic data on 99 national legislative elections held under 55 electoral systems in 37 countries. Specifically, it examines how two contextual variables – (1) institutional variables related to presidential elections and (2) patterns of ethnopolitical fragmentation and concentration – mediate the direct effects of electoral institutions on the structure (degree of fragmentation or concentration) of party systems. Regression analysis shows that electoral institutions have negligible independent effects, while contextual variables independently and interactively with each other and with electoral institutions account for the largest amount of variance on the degree of fragmentation or concentration of party systems. The conclusion discusses the implications of the results for the consolidation of Africa’s emerging democracies in the context of ethnopolitical diversity.