Quinlyn Mork's paper, "Democracy in Ghana: A Product of Elite Construction?" was selected by the PLS/IR Student Awards Committee as the Political Science and International Relations Outstanding Paper written for a PLS/IR course in 2013. Quinlyn wrote her research paper last winter while taking PLS 339 Comparative Democratization. There were a total of eight submissions, and Quinlyn will receive a $200 monetary award. Thanks to those students who submitted their papers for consideration, and congratulations, Quinlyn!
Here is the abstract to Quinlyn's excellent paper:
This paper explores the instrumental role that Jerry Rawlings has played in Ghana’s success as a democracy and to what extent his decisions were actually made of his own accord. Though many scholars emphasize the importance of the actions of elites in the process of democratization, they do not delineate between the effects these actions have on initial transitions to democracy and the impact they have on the process of democratic deepening within a state. I argue that the choice made by Jerry Rawlings to transition to democracy was mostly a product of a combination of factors well out of his control; however his impact became most significant in relation to the further process of democratic consolidation and deepening. To articulate the difference between transition and deepening, I begin by establishing how deeply rooted ideology prepared Ghana’s political environment to favor democracy. I then explore how Jerry Rawlings’ policy decisions were most directly a response to external pressures, including international aid and Western demands that came with it, and domestic pressures, such as a failing economy and well-organized special interest groups. I study how these factors heavily influenced the decision that Jerry Rawlings made in 1992 to approve of the new democratic constitution. I then explore how this constitution has significantly aided Ghana in the process of consolidating its democracy. My paper will be structured into three main sections: historical ideology, external and internal pressures, and democratic deepening. In the last section, I will more specifically explore the constitutional provisions that have allowed for an independent Electoral Commission, independent media, parliamentary oversight, institutionalized opposition, as well as a vibrant civil society and how these factors have contributed to the deepening of democracy.
Submissions for the 2014 award will be announced in the fall semester. If you are working on a research paper this semester or next, consider submitting it. Students working on papers involving original research -- with innovative arguments, data collection, data analysis, and the like -- are particularly encouraged to submit their essays for next year's award.