Research suggests regional organisations ‘lock in’ their dominant political systems: democratic regionalism stabilises transitioning democracies whilst regionalism in autocratic regions is conversely associated with boosts in authoritarianism. Little research, however, has examined the regional-level trends and tactics that authoritarian leaders have sought to exploit to survive in democratising regions. This article focuses on the West Africa region which has seen considerable democratic progress over the last 20 years. However, while this progress is commendable (demonstrated by the recent transition of formerly autocratic Gambia), the consolidation process is not complete and, as in other parts of the world (such as the EU), democratic backsliding is a present risk. This article explains how authoritarian leaders have sought to use and benefited from regional dynamics in an otherwise democratising region. It suggests that both formal and informal regional interactions have at times provided benefits that support authoritarianism and suggests a typology of the mechanisms through which this can happen. It serves as a potential guide for other regions in Africa yet to democratise to the level of West Africa, and as a guide to the types of regional authoritarianism-enhancing processes that could be used to support backsliding in (west) Africa and elsewhere.
|Number of pages||19|
|Journal||Journal of Contemporary African Studies|
|Early online date||6 Jul 2017|
|Publication status||Early online - 6 Jul 2017|