Dissertation Defense: Diane Zovighian

Candidate Name: Diane Zovighian

Major: Government

Advisor: Marc Howard, Ph.D.

Title: Clientelism and party politics: Evidence from Nigeria

The dissertation provides an explanation for the workings of clientelism and some preliminary insights on the conditions under which it can recede.

First, I provide evidence from Nigeria on the "loyal voter anomaly": I show that political parties tend to target clientelistic transfers to partisans, whose votes should already be secure, rather than to swing voters, whose votes are up for grabs. Second, I develop a theory of "strategic safe-betting" to explain the disproportionate targeting of partisans. This theory puts the emphasis on risk mitigation, an aspect of clientelistic relations that existing explanations tend to overlook. I argue that clientelistic transfers are risky and expensive endeavors, and that loyal voters represent a safer bet for political parties: their voting behavior is indeed easier to influence, predict or, in a best-case scenario, monitor. This is due to their close ties to the operatives of the party machine, as well as their deeper embeddedness in "networks of control" through which parties exert influence and gather information on voters before and during elections. Third, I provide preliminary insights on the demise of clientelism. I show that macro developments - in particular urbanization and economic development - that increase the weight of swing voters make clientelistic transfers riskier and provide incentives for parties to develop programmatic promises.

The dissertation builds on original quantitative and qualitative empirical evidence from the most populous sub-Saharan African country, Nigeria. It draws on observational and experimental survey data to provide a quantitative analysis of the determinants and workings of clientelism at the individual level. It also builds on selected archival documents and in-depth key informant interviews to develop a qualitative narrative of the historical roots of clientelistic partisan pacts in Nigeria and the mechanisms that sustain and break them in contemporary politics.

Thursday, April 26, 2018 at 1:30pm to 3:30pm

Car Barn, 110
3520 Prospect St., N.W., Washington

Event Type

Academic Events, Dissertation Defense


Georgetown College, Government, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences



Open to the public and the press?


Event Contact Name

Paula Evans

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