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Arriola: Where there is no alternative

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Arriola. 2005. Where there is no alternative: Explaining weak opposition weakness in sub-saharan Africa. APSA convention.


Though scholars typically cite the failure of African oppositions to coordinate as the cause of long-lasting incumbencies, Arriola notes that there is actually considerable variation among African states concerning the opposition parties' ability to coordinate, and in many (44%) elections the opposition does coordinate to a degree. What determines the opposition's ability to coordinate?



Y: The probability of opposition coordination (dichotomous)

X1: Government's control of the economy. Measured as "government consumption as a percentage of GDP."

X2: Uncertainty within the opposition of each party's relative strength. Measured as "the difference in size between a country's two largest ethnic groups."


  1. The probability of coordination decreases as government's control of the economy increases. (Makes it easy to neutralize rivals.)
  2. The probability of coordination is lowest when the differences in size between the two largest ethnic groups is between 10 and 20 percent. A parabolic relationship. It's easy to bargain when the difference is either large or small. But when it's moderate, neither side knows exactly how much to offer or demand.