British Journal of Political Science


Primaries on Demand? Intra-Party Politics and Nominations in Ghana

Nahomi Ichino and Noah L. Nathan *


In new democracies, why do political party leaders relinquish power over nominations and allow legislative candidates to be selected by primary elections? Where the legislature is weak and politics is clientelistic, democratization of candidate selection is driven by local party members seeking benefits from primary contestants. Analysis of an original dataset on legislative nominations and political interference by party leaders for the 2004 and 2008 elections in Ghana shows that primaries are more common where nominations attract more aspirants and where the party is more likely to win, counter to predictions in the existing literature. Moreover, the analysis shows that party leaders interfere in primaries in a pattern consistent with anticipation of party members’ reactions.

(Online publication March 06 2012)


*  Department of Government, Harvard University (email:, The authors wish to thank Robert Bates, Jorge Domínguez, Jeff Frieden, Frances Hagopian, Adam Glynn, Torben Iversen, James Robinson, Arthur Spirling and seminar participants at Harvard University for helpful suggestions, and Abel Boreto, Sangu Delle, Daniel Kroop, Jitka Vinduskova and Sumorwuo Zaza for their research assistance. Support for this research was provided by the Committee on African Studies and the Institute for Quantitative Social Science at Harvard University. To ensure exclusive access to our original data collection for a second article, we impose a one year embargo on making replication material for this article publicly available. Project data will be available no later than 12 months after publication of this article at