Columbia International Affairs Online: Working Papers

CIAO DATE: 07/2010

Measuring and Comparing Party Ideology in Nonindustrialized Societies: Taking Party Manifesto Research to Africa

Sebastian Elischer

June 2010

German Institute of Global and Area Studies


Despite a growing interest in African political parties, no comparative analyses of political ideology in Africa have been undertaken to date. This study addresses this shortcoming by applying the Manifesto Research Group’s (MRG) coding scheme to a complete set of African party manifestos in three African countries. The study’s main aim is to determine whether a research tool that has been seminal in the study of Western politics can be used to study political parties in nonindustrialized societies. In a first step the study examines the extent to which African manifestos advance programmatic ideas. Although most parties fail to do so, results indicate drastic differences between parties. The study subsequently investigates how African parties position themselves on a right–left spectrum. Most parties show a bias towards the political Left. Finally, the study examines the stance of individual parties on specific policy issues such as democracy and human rights, education, corruption, youth and women, and intercommunal relations. The study argues that although the MRG scheme has been designed against the historical background of European politics, it can be applied to advance the study of African parties.