How African politicians, especially legislators, behave on a daily basis is still largely unknown. This article gives a unique empirical account of the daily accountability pressures and the strategies that Members of Parliament (MPs) in Ghana employ in responding to the demands that they face. While literature on political clientelism focuses on explanatory factors like lack of political credibility, political machines capable of effective monitoring, autonomy of brokers, high levels of poverty, and political competiveness, the role of institutions has been overlooked. While the existing literature suggests that political clientelism is an optimal strategy in the context of weak institutions, the present analysis finds that the institution of the office of Member of Parliament in Ghana is strong, but shaped by informal norms in ways that favour the provision of private goods in clientelistic networks. The analysis also points to theoretical lessons on how political clientelism can endogenously undermine the conditions for its own existence.
The Journal of Modern African Studies (2010), 48: 117-142 [doi: 10.1017/S0022278X09990243]