The Effect of Non-partisan Elections and Decentralisation on Local Government Performance

27th January 2021
Author: Robin Richards

This rapid review focusses on whether there is international evidence on the role of non-partisan elections as a form of decentralised local government that improves performance of local government. The review provides examples of this from Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. There are two reported examples in Sub-Saharan Africa of non-partisan elections that delink candidates from political parties during election campaigns. The use of non-partisan elections to improve performance and democratic accountability at the level of government is not common, for example, in southern Africa all local elections at the sub-national sphere follow the partisan model. Whilst there were no examples found where countries shifted from partisan to non-partisan elections at the local government level, the literature notes that decentralisation policies have the effect of democratising and transferring power and therefore few central governments implement it fully. In Africa decentralisation is favoured because it is often used as a cover for central control. Many post-colonial leaders in Africa continue to favour centralised government under the guise of decentralisation. These preferences emanated from their experiences under colonisation where power was maintained by colonial administrations through institutions such as traditional leadership. A review of the literature on non-partisan elections at the local government level came across three examples where this occurred. These countries were: Ghana, Uganda and Bangladesh. Although South Africa holds partisan elections at the sub-national sphere, the election of ward committee members and ward councillors, is on a non-partisan basis and therefore, the ward committee system in South Africa is included as an example of a non-partisan election process in the review.

Download Report
Suggested Citation

Richards, R. (2021). The effect of non-partisan elections and decentralisation on local government performance. K4D Helpdesk Report. Brighton, UK: Institute of Development Studies. DOI: 10.19088/K4D.2021.014


27th January 2021


Continent: Africa, Asia

Country: Bangladesh, Ghana, South Africa, Uganda