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My research focuses on democratization and election quality in African countries, particularly the role of international factors in regime transitions and resilience. I also conduct research on the development of political parties and the attitudes of political elites in Africa. The aim is to understand how elite attitudes influence the prospects for democratization and election quality.

I have conducted research in eight African countries to examine the influence of African regional organization on election quality:

  • Zimbabwe (2018, 2014)
  • Côte d’Ivoire (2015)
  • Ethiopia (2015) at the African Union
  • Kenya (2015, 2014, 2013)
  • Nigeria (2015) at the Economic Community of West African States
  • South Africa (2014, 2013)
  • Botswana (2013) at the Southern African Development Community
  • Tanzania (2012) at the East African Community

The dissertation project entitled, My Brother’s Keeper? The Effects of African Regional Organizations on Election Quality, relies on over 300 extended elite interviews. The dissertation project reflects my belief in a mixed methods approach to research. As part of the project, I conduct a quantitative analysis of the determinants of election quality, including an assessment of African regional organizations’ election assistance.

Fieldwork in Eight African Countries

Research Themes

Democratization and Election Quality

This research agenda lies at the intersection of comparative politics and international relations, specifically focusing on the international factors that influence democratization and democratic consolidation. Of interest are the mechanisms with the potential to influence election quality including international election observation, democracy assistance from donor countries and non-governmental organizations with an international reach, support for political parties, and cross-border collaboration between political parties and civil society organizations. Explorations of these mechanisms raises the concern of demonstrating how international-related mechanisms have a direct bearing on domestic outcomes, such as election quality. Further, an important consideration is weighing the partial effects of international influence against domestic explanations for election quality. To this effect, many of the external interventions in election quality involve supporting election management bodies (EMB) in capacity building and sharing best practices. In sum, changes to election quality, such as the development of EMBs and the diffusion of election practice, arguably have an international and regional dimension. A final aspect of this research agenda is interrogating measures of election quality to aid in assessing changes to election quality over time.

African Regional Organizations

Research on the determinants of electoral integrity has disproportionately focused on the role of international observers and global institutions, such as the UNDP. African regional organizations, such as East African Community (EAC), Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), and Southern African Development Community (SADC) among other organizations and multilateral programs, such as NEPAD and APRM, have increasingly become involved in election-related concerns. In particular, African regional organizations embrace de jure commitments to democracy and good governance in treaties, protocols, and guidelines. Nevertheless, efforts to promote free and fair elections vary across regions and elections. What explains the highly variable behavior of African regional organizations? In addition to explaining regional intervention, it is important to discern the influence of regional organization interventions on election quality outcomes. On a broader level, the regional dimension is crucial for explaining the prospects for realizing increased integration across the African continent.

Select Ongoing Research Projects

  • African regional organizations and democratization
  • Public opinion on African regional organizations
  • Attitudes of political elites and democratic governance
  • More Research Projects

Research Awards

  • Dissertation Completion Fellowship, Michigan State University (2017)
  • University Fellowship, Michigan State University (2015, 2014)
  • Graduate Student Research Enhancement Award, Michigan State University College of Arts and Sciences (2013)
  • Departmental Summer Fieldwork Fellowship, Michigan State University Department of Political Science (2013)
  • Departmental Summer Fieldwork Fellowship, Michigan State University Department of Political Science (2012)