Defining the playing field: A framework for analysing fairness in access to resources, media and the law
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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The playing field is a concept often used to describe level of fairness in electoral competition. With Levitsky and Way’s definition of the playing field as a case in point, this paper takes a critical look at existing work on the playing field, arguing that current conceptualizations suffer from lacking conceptual logic, operationalization and measurement. A new and disaggregated framework that can serve as the basis for future research on the playing field is then proposed. This framework is applied to an illustrative case study on the development of the playing field in Zambia under MMD rule, thereby demonstrating that it is able to capture both the changing nature of the playing field and the differing mechanisms at play to a larger degree than the framework put forth by Levitsky and Way. The 2011 elections in Zambia also clearly highlight the importance of conceptually and empirically separating the slope of the playing field from its impact on both the opposition and electoral outcomes.