‘I Only Need a Second Term’: Young Councillors’ Strategic Adaption to the Ambivalence of Everyday Local Politics

Wednesday, 18 July 2018: 20:00
Oral Presentation
Matthew SABBI, University of Bayreuth, Germany
Young local councillors in Ghana often articulate somewhat ‘alternative politics’. Vibrant, urban-educated, vocal and actively engaged with communal self-organizing, they aspire to amplify a voice for the youth that is absent in local politics. However, their optimism at once confronts the ambivalence of everyday local politics—survival in the councils must prevail over any alternative vision of local politics. This ambivalence leads these young and inexperienced politicians to despair. Yet, most of them resort to ‘survival politics’; a strategic adaption of their prefigured ideals to everyday political practices as they struggle at once to deal with the expectations from their electorates and everyday life in the local administration. Drawing on recent fieldwork from different local administrations in Ghana, this paper sheds light on why these young councillors must adapt to both the narrative and challenges faced by their ‘old’ colleagues albeit in an arena with young and largely inexperienced politicians. They attribute their despair and everyday tactics to barriers imposed by local elites, poor remuneration, and unrealistic demands from electorates. However, their optimism is not only unrealistic but also fails to link local political processes to regime preferences and interests that shape the very design of the local political space in which the councillors serve.