On (the now shattered) Malian Democracy

Update:

Mutineers in Mali have appeared on national television to announce the overthrow of the “incompetent” government of President Amadou Toumani Toure. More on this here.

Also, I must hand it to Jay Ulfelder over at dart-throwing chimp for nailing it on Mali’s coup risk in 2012.

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What started as a mutiny in Mali on Tuesday night appears to have degenerated into a coup. Mali was due to hold elections on April 29th 2012. Since (re)democratization in the early 1990s Mali has routinely been cited as a case of democratic consolidation despite seemingly insurmountable odds (poor HDI scores, etc.). The current developments, however, raise serious questions with regard to whether the Malian political and military elite have wholly bought into the idea of settling their battles for power and influence at the ballot.

Furthermore, existing evidence (see below, part of an ongoing research project) paint a picture not of consolidation but of a cycling of over-sized coalitions that are prone to executive control and manipulation. The non-existence of stable elite coalitions (as appears to be the case in the stylized comparative case of Ghana) is a recipe for elite political instability as we are currently witnessing.

Oversize coalitions in government under electoral democracy are not a sufficient condition for elite political instability, but they are definitely a sign that things might not be right.

The idea here is that stable coalitions create room for self-enforcing arrangements among elites by raising actors’ audience costs. A regular cycling of over-size coalitions flies in the face of all of this – resulting in near-permanent first mover advantage and incentives for those left out to use extra-constitutional means to gain power.

The proximate cause of the mutiny and eventual (attempted) coup in Mali might have been a confluence of weak state coercive capacity and the resurgence of the Tuareg rebellion in the north of the country (fueled by weapons from Libya); but one cannot rule out the significance of the enabling structural conditions.

This is a data point on coups in Africa that I rather did not have.

property rights and economic development in africa

Forget (almost) everything else. The trouble with African economies is simply and squarely the lack of property rights protection. It still beats me why the African political elite have failed at instituting even intra-elite property rights protection. The fact that the African political elite – who also happen to be the wealthiest people on the Continent – cannot invest in their own countries has resulted in massive capital flight. The quote below says it all.

Speaking at the New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD) meeting in Abuja, Nigeria, in December 2003, the former British secretary of state for international development, Lynda Chalker, noted that 40 percent of the wealth created in Africa is invested outside the continent.

And this is only what gets counted. Although obviously the upper bound, recent revelations of Mubarak’s wealth (between 20 -70 billion) may be an indication of the amount of personal wealth stashed overseas by long time autocrats like oil-rich Angola’s Edwardo do Santos, Equatorial Guinea’s Obiang’ and Sudan’s Bashir, among others.

The contrast is that:

In corrupt societies in Asia, such as Indonesia, Bangladesh and Pakistan the citizens still prosper because the corrupt elite keep their money at home. They invest in new mobile phone network, build private hospitals and tourist hotels (here).

In short, elite political instability and distrust in Africa is one of the key reasons why the region remains poorer than any other in the world.