In Zambia, some people describe their political participation as a way to transmit ideas and hold politicians accountable, while others explain their participation as a bid for resources or personal assistance. These differences follow a geographic trend, with residents of remote areas more likely to focus on substantive material gain. What accounts for this geographic variation? I argue that the centre/periphery distinction within the country influences the way people understand democracy. People living centrally are more likely to hold a procedural understanding of democracy and value democratic rules and process, while people living peripherally are more likely to hold a substantive understanding of democracy and view periodic acts like voting as a bid for resources. I employ geocoded Afrobarometer data alongside 92 original semi-structured interviews to demonstrate that those living further from Zambia’s central rail line are less likely to hold procedural understandings of democracy. I explore several mechanisms that could drive this difference, including homogeneity of remote communities and increased reliance on traditional leaders in peripheral areas. Divergent understandings of democracy between more and less remote denizens have important implications for the future of democratic regimes.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Geography, Planning and Development
- Sociology and Political Science