Unity Governments and Democratisation during a Transition: National Unity or Shared Government

Prof. Dirk Kotzé

Unity governments or GNUs are most of the time implemented during transition periods after conflicts or political crises. Post-conflict reconstruction and development as a process normally includes democratization and socio-economic development combined with security stabilization. The research question is whether it is indeed a realistic expectation that transitional unity governments can contribute towards democratization. Based on comparative research of African case studies, what can be concluded in this regard about trends during the administrations of GNUs? The anticipated research approach would be to analyse political trends in polities governed by GNUs in terms of factors or variables indicative of democratization. Acknowledging that the debate about indicators of, or contributors toward, democratization is one of the perennial core issues in democratization scholarship and that it has not yet reached a conclusive point, for this paper the following will be used: indicators of stability, conflict and conflict resolution (Global Peace Index); political inclusiveness in the GNU; right to political participation (Vanhanen) and the level of participation (turn-out of eligible voters); decline in corruption (TI); electoral integrity (Pippa Norris); the human development index (social capital, especially education); and chronological regime trends plus political/civil rights (Freedom House, Polity IV). GDP growth and inequality (Gini coefficient) are contested as reliable criteria and their inclusion will therefore be qualified. A strictly quantitative analysis will not be used, because it disregards the regime dynamics present in case studies that are important for interpreting GNUs and democratization. Therefore, the intended research methodology will be qualitative comparative case studies that include statistics on the above factors/variables, combined with literature analyses and interviews with GNU participants. The conclusions should provide more specific knowledge about democratization post-crisis or –conflict transitions and specifically whether unity governments can be regarded as mechanisms of democratization. It should clarify the democratic instrumentality of unity governments: are they about national unity and therefore stabilizing a transition; about political inclusivity and therefore power-sharing; or about political stability and therefore sharing a government?