Power Sharing or Power Hoarding? Conflict and Democratic Breakdown in Nigeria and Lebanon

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Power-sharing institutions--organized around the principle of group representation--have re-emerged in recent decades throughout the world. From Iraq to Afghanistan, "power-sharing" has again become a preeminent solution to ethnic and/or electoral conflict. This approach--including the variant of "consociationalism"--has long been critiqued for either strengthening inter-elite ties at the expense of mass-level linkages or working only in societies already committed to inter-group cooperation or conciliation. What these critiques miss--and dangerously so for the countries now undergoing the power-sharing treatment--is that the organization of politics around group representation is inherently unstable.

This dissertation traces the impact of institutionalized group representation in two very different staples of the power-sharing literature: Nigeria and Lebanon. Although these mixed Muslim-Christian countries differ in nearly every respect considered relevant in the institutional design literature (electoral system, de/centralized government, party law regulation, size, colonial power, and region) they experience strikingly similar cycles of conflict and democratic breakdown. The dissertation argues that, rather than being a conflict resolution technique of relatively recent provenance, power-sharing is rooted in the exigencies of imperial rule. In doing so, it examines the emergence of ethnic federalism and confessionalism in colonialism in Nigeria and Lebanon.

The dissertation then models how institutionalized group representation leads to conflict and democratic breakdown. Drawing on sociology, the dissertation draws on Charles Tilly's model of "Democracy." He argues that democracy operates in a self-reinforcing virtuous circle through three interlocking mechanisms: integration of trust networks, reduction in categorical inequalities and removal or autonomous bases of power. This dissertation argues that, by definition, power sharing promotes the opposite mechanisms: "opportunity hoarding," "category formation," and "certification." The operation of these three mechanisms leads to vicious cycles of conflict and democratic breakdown. The dissertation traces the operation of these three mechanisms focusing on two nested clusters of "groups" since the early 1990s: North/Middle Belt/Jasawa in Nigeria and Muslim/Shi'a/Alawi in Lebanon. Based on this examination of Nigeria and Lebanon, the dissertation argues that "group representation" regimes will lead to cycles of conflict and democratic breakdown and should not be viewed as a conflict panacea.