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Extended Stay: Factors Contributing to Success or Failure When African Presidents Attempt to Amend Constitutions to Hold on to Power

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Technical Report

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Naval Postgraduate School Monterey United States

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This thesis addresses why some African leaders have succeeded in extending their mandates while others have not. Specifically, the study focuses on societal factors that impose constraints upon leaders attempting to extend or abolish term limits, paying particular attention to the influence of urbanization, formal education, and the functioning of civil society organizations. Using a within-case methodology, the study investigates Blaise Compaores twenty-seven-year rule in Burkina Faso, comparing his successful extension of his mandate in 2005 to his failed attempt in 2014. Comparative case analysis is used to determine what societal changes may have occurred between the two attempts. The analysis suggests that urbanization and the functioning of civil society organizations were factors important to the difference in outcomes. The factor of formalized education was not found to be important. In 2014, new grassroots, pro-democratic civil society organizations capitalized on urban demographic changes to mobilize pro-democracy opposition to Compaore. The organizations used a number of effective strategies to accomplish this, including civic education and pro-democracy consensus building. These insights offer potential guidance to democracy promoters as they search for opportunities to assist pro-democracy civil society organizations.

Subject Categories:

  • Government and Political Science

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