Democracy -a Game Changer? From Patrimonial Stability to Civil War: a Political Settlement Analysis of Côte d'Ivoire

Jonas Wirke Schlein Andersen

Studenteropgave: Speciale


In recent years democratization and multiparty elections have come to prominence among development policy makers as tools for reestablishing peace and legitimate rule in fragile countries. However, often democratic transitions lead to political violence and civil war. A case in point is Côte d’Ivoire: in the wake of democratization the country descended into civil war after three decades of political stability. The thesis examines how and to what extent the introduction of multiparty democracy changed the power balance in the Ivorian society, and what impact those changes had on political behavior and organization, and thereby on the increasing political instability that escalated into civil war. The question is addressed through an institutional approach of political settlement analysis based on Mushtaq Khan’s analytical framework, and in this way the contribution of the thesis consists of a coherent analysis of the Ivorian post-colonial history of political economy, from Côte d’Ivoire’s independence in 1960 and until the outbreak of civil war in 2002. The analysis builds on the vast Anglophone and Francophone secondary literature available on Côte d’Ivoire. In the 1960s the ruling elite successfully centralized the management of cocoa and coffee, creating an economy based on agricultural exports and redirecting the rents to industrial investments that met the interests of the ruling elite’s capitalist ambitions. A high operational equilibrium emerged in this period under ‘constrained patrimonialism’. But, as the cocoa and coffee prices fell in the 1980s, the economic policies of the regime proved unviable. The operational equilibrium weakened as struggles over rents within the ever expanding ruling elite intensified and consequently factionalized the ruling party. Upon the death of President Houphouët-Boigny, rivalry over the presidency resulted in defection from the ruling coalition of the primarily Muslim supporters from the North. The defection shifted the horizontal distribution of power between elites, but had only little effect on the vertical power distribution, thereby prolonging the period of ‘constrained patrimonialism’ under the ruling elite’s increasing use of repressive means. Finally, in 1999 the ruling coalition was altered and, ‘competitive clientelism’ emerged as the government was toppled in a coup d’état. However, the operational equilibrium weakened further as the new political leaders proved unable to broaden their coalitions and relied on authoritarian repressive means instead. By applying Khan’s framework, the thesis highlights the complex interplay between democratization, economic institutions and political organizations in Côte d’Ivoire and how this led to the emergence of a repressive version of ‘competitive clientelism’: While the mechanisms of democratization only empowered the lower level agents at a slow pace, the analysis reveals that the primary forces that destabilized the political settlement were economic and, that democratization only indirectly affected the political destabilization as voter mobilization strategies in the specific structures of Ivorian political organization came to hamper the possibilities of coalition building and exacerbate the ensuing conflict. The findings stress the need to pay special attention to voter mobilization strategies, when studying the impact of democratization. Furthermore it suggests that a political settlement analysis of the present post-war Côte d’Ivoire would be likely to reveal significant insights into the long time effects of the democratization process.

UddannelserInternationale Udviklingsstudier, (Bachelor/kandidatuddannelse) Kandidat
Udgivelsesdato10 aug. 2012
VejledereLindsay Whitfield


  • Political Settlement
  • Democracy
  • Civil War
  • Côte d'Ivoire
  • Political economy
  • Mushtaq Khan