A Better Life For All? Democratization and Electrification in Post-Apartheid South Africa.
Does democracy affect the delivery of essential basic services? And if yes, which elements of democracy trigger changes in implemented policies: enfranchisement, the liberalization of political organization, or both? In 1994, 19 million South Africans gained the right to vote. The ANC promised “a better life for all” including improved household access to electricity. Using a difference-in-differences approach, we exploit heterogeneity in the share of newly enfranchised voters across municipalities to evaluate how franchise extension affected household electrification. Our dataset combines geo-referenced nightlight satellite imagery, 1996 and 2001 census data, and 1995/6 municipal election results. Enfranchisement has a significant positive effect on electrification, but the liberalization of political organization matters, too. Our analysis highlights the potential mediating role of political parties in accounting for service delivery patterns in new democracies.