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As there is an ongoing debate about the prospects for democracy at a global level, democratization in Africa also faces a critical juncture. Despite the expectations generated by the third wave of democratization, the last decades have been marked by processes of democratic stagnation or recession. These trends suggest that, while necessary, formal or processual aspects like the adoption of term limits or the holding of regular elections were not sufficient conditions for the institution of democratic regimes.
In political terms, however, the past years have been eventful. There were leadership changes in a series of authoritarian or semi-authoritarian regimes, including Algeria, Angola, Burkina Faso, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Gambia, Sudan or Zimbabwe. Driving forces behind these changes were diverse. In some cases, like in Algeria or Burkina Faso, popular protests – often resorting to social media as platforms for mobilization and projection of discontent on a potentially global scale – played a pivotal role. In others, like Ethiopia, Zimbabwe or Sudan, while popular protests were determinant triggers of change, well-established political actors – dominant parties and / or the military – remained in control of the situation. In yet other cases, like in The Gambia, changes were determined by elections, in a context where civil society actors and regional organizations were decisive in forcing the incumbent to accept the results.
While it is never enough to stress Africa`s diversity, it is possible to identify cross-country trends which will impact political change in the continent, including demographic and urban transitions and the emergence of alternative forms and spaces of popular contestation. In a time when the synthesis of liberal democracy and prosperity seems increasingly endangered by the rise of alternative formulas, how will this wave of change impact democratization prospects in the continent?
This panel welcomes proposals that contribute to the understanding of the dynamics and possible outcomes of recent leadership changes, through the critical examination of their historical, institutional and / or socio-economic contexts, and the analysis of their main triggers and actors. Submissions can be either focused on singular cases or based on a comparative perspective.