NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

New Tools for the Analysis of Political Power in Africa

Ilia Rainer, Francesco Trebbi

NBER Working Paper No. 18424
Issued in September 2012
NBER Program(s):   POL   DEV

The study of autocracies and weakly institutionalized countries is plagued by scarcity of information about the relative strength of different players within the political system. This paper presents novel data on the composition of government coalitions in a sample of fifteen post-colonial African countries suited to this task. We emphasize the role of the executive branch as the central fulcrum of all national political systems in our sample, especially relative to other institutional bodies such as the legislative assembly. Leveraging on the impressive body of work documenting the crucial role of ethnic fragmentation as a main driver of political and social friction in Africa, the paper further details the construction of ethnic composition measures for executive cabinets. We discuss how this novel source of information may help shed light on the inner workings of typically opaque African political elites.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w18424

Forthcoming: New Tools for the Analysis of Political Power in Africa, Ilia Rainer, Francesco Trebbi. in African Successes: Government and Institutions, Edwards, Johnson, and Weil. 2014

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