Democracy, decentralization, and district proliferation: The case of Ghana
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In many developing countries, a rhetorical commitment to decentralization often superficially manifests through the creation of new or smaller administrative units at the sub-national level. In democracies in particular, this raises the question of whether sub-national unit proliferation is intended for winning popular support in elections or addressing the concerns of local citizens. This paper analyzes the motivations for district creation by focusing on Ghana, which is oft-considered one of Africa's more committed countries to decentralization. At the same time, successive governments repeatedly have divided the country into more districts in an espoused effort to more effectively bring services closer to citizens. With an in-depth focus on the most recent increase from 170 to 216 districts between 2008 and 2012, this paper employs national and district census, socioeconomic, and electoral data to examine which districts were split and why. Instead of representing a source of patronage to swing voters or a divide-and-rule strategy in opposition strongholds, the study finds that the incumbent party at the time, the National Democratic Congress (NDC), used re-districting as a tactic of malapportionment and predominantly targeted non-competitive districts where gaining an additional legislative seat in subsequent elections was more likely. Evidence suggests that this pattern is not specific to the NDC and that previous district splitting under the New Patriotic Party (NPP) also focused disproportionately on that party's safe seats. Overall, the paper emphasizes the need for according greater consideration to underlying institutional aspects, particularly electoral rules and executive-legislative relations, when analyzing the motivations for territorial reforms. (C) 2017 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
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