Joel D. Barkan is professor of Political Science at the University of Iowa and senior consultant on Governance in the Public Sector Reform Unit of the Africa Region at the World Bank. A specialist on democratization, political processes and development policy in sub-Saharan Africa, Barkan served as the regional democracy and governance advisor for East and Southern Africa to the United States Agency for International Development from 1992 to 1994. Barkan's knowledge of the politics of developing countries is the result of more than three decades of teaching, research, and government service. Since 1966 he has worked in Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Namibia, Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia. He has also conducted research in rural India. Barkan's research focuses on the relationships between central governmental institutions and society, and include studies of electoral behavior and electoral systems, legislative institutions, civil society, the politics of rural development, decentralization and democratization. His research has been supported by grants from the Social Science Research Council, the National Science Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, the U.S. Agency for International Development, the U.S. Institute of Peace, the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and the World Bank. He is currently conducting a comparative study on the significance of early elections in countries making the transition from authoritarian to democratic rule. His most recent project, Designing Better Electoral Systems for Emerging Democracy, is reported on the web at Barkan received his A.B. from Cornell, and his Ph.D. in political science and African studies from UCLA. Since that time he has been a visiting faculty member or research fellow at the University of Dar es Salaam (1973-74), the Institute of Development Studies, Nairobi (1974, 1979-80), le Fondation Nationale des Sciences Politiques, Paris (1978-79), the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, New Delhi (1984), Cornell University (1990), the U.S. Institute of Peace (1997-98) and the National Endowment for Democracy (2000). Barkan is the author or co-author and editor of four books, the most recent of which is Beyond Capitalism Versus Socialism in Kenya and Tanzania (Lynne Rienner, 1994), a comparative examination of democratization and economic reform in East Africa. He has also contributed articles to the American Political Science Review, the Journal of Democracy, Democratization, the Journal of Modern African Studies, World Politics, and Foreign Affairs. Barkan is a periodic consultant to USAID, the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES), the United Nations Electoral Assistance Division, the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA), UNDP and the World Bank. He is a member of the Council of Foreign Relations and the Research Council of the National Endowment for Democracy. He served on the Board of the African Studies Association from 1990 to 1993, and was a member of the editorial board of the International Encyclopedia of Elections. He has been listed in Who's Who in America since 1986.


Country expertise: The politics of developing countries, particularly sub-Saharan Africa (especially Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Nigeria, South Africa, and Zambia) Subject expertise: Democracy and democratization; elections and electoral processes; civil society; the role of the international donor community (i.e. USAID, World Bank) in promoting political and economic reform; U.S. foreign policy toward Africa

Project Summary

My proposal is to complete a comparative study of "first" and subsequent early elections in two types of transitional polities—those making the transition from authoritarian to democratic rule, and those seeking to reconstitute the state following periods of civil war. The project is significant because the holding of "free and fair" elections has long been a cornerstone of democratic theory and an objective of Western foreign policy toward transitional political systems. Yet the outcomes from recent early elections show that in roughly half the cases, the holding of elections does not in itself launch a democratic polity or facilitate a democratic peace. This study explores why this is so. A book-length manuscript intended for both policymakers and scholars will be the main product of this project.

Major Publications

  • "Protracted Transitions Among Africa's New Democracies." Democratization, Autumn 2000, 227-43.
  • "Elections in Developing Countries." International Encyclopedia of Elections, Congressional Quarterly Press, 2000, 87-94.
  • "Democracy in Africa: No Time to Forsake It." (with David Gordon), Foreign Affairs, July/August, 1998. 4.