Purpose of the book

“Democracy is not just a spectator sport - it requires the active involvement of its citizens” (Dalton, 2000, p. 57). This implies that a healthy democracy will need the active participation of the citizenry. Thus, the question of what influences people to participate in politics within a given polity becomes important and warrants investigation.9 Specifically, this book, therefore, intends to make a contribution to political and electoral participation research in three ways:

First, understanding electoral participation at the individual level is in itself an important research topic. Nevertheless, it is important to explain why it is particularly interesting to focus on newly consolidated democracies. The question of why or what influences people to vote has been fully explored by scholars in advanced industrial democracies. Yet, even after more than three decades of democratic experience, cross-national/regional comparative research on voting in newly emerging democracies is rare or still developing. This is an empirical gap this book fills by providing a broad examination and explanation of electoral participation in young or newly consolidated democracies.

Second, this book aims at theory - testing. With this ambition in mind, it asks whether the standard models and explanations of vote choice that have been developed in respect to established democracies work as well in newer democracies. To be precise, some of the oldest electoral research took place in the democracies of Western Europe, after that which was undertaken by the Columbia and Michigan schools,10 US, where pioneering studies began in the 1940s. National election studies were introduced across a handful of these countries, beginning with Scandinavian countries: the Swedish national election studies were initiated in 1956, followed by Norway in 1957 and then other studies such as those in Britain, Germany and Netherlands (Curtice, 2002; Thomassen, 1994). Given that national election studies have now been conducted in these countries and other Western European countries for more than 50 years, it is normal that these countries have been inclined to spearhead research in this area and, of course, the implication of this is that most of the approaches or theories that have been postulated to explain why people decide whether or not to vote have been influenced mostly by the experience of European voters and or voters in Western advanced democracies. Thus, in trying to explain what influences people to vote, this book draws on models and theories that may be considered as Western constructed. How far can these Western generated theories travel in the age of globalisation and the spread of democracy? Does their explanation of voting fit well the emerging democracies of sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America, East Asia, and post-Communist European states?

Third, and from a broader comparative perspective, by focusing and comparing sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America, East Asia, and Central and Eastern European countries, this book explores whether there are similarities of outcome, which might be expected given the relative newness of democratic elections in these regions, or if there are systematic differences between the various geo-political regions. In a nutshell, the goal of this book is to understand which of three patterns holds:

1. To see if there is something distinctive about voting in new democracies as a whole - that is, to see if these newly consolidated democracies broadly resemble each other but differ from the established democracies of Western Europe; or

  • 2. to see if the new democracies are generally similar to Western European countries or democracies and therefore confirm established research truths; or
  • 3. to see if each region is unique in its own way.
 
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