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ABSTRACT This article brings together the literature on ‘electoral authoritarian regimes’ with the sub-fields of diaspora studies and transnationalism to evaluate the potential of political parties in exile to be forces for positive change in Rwanda. With this in mind, the article asks one simple question: is the participation of the Rwandan opposition in exile in electoral processes back home likely to be a positive force for change? It concludes that, in Rwanda at least, elections cannot be won transnationally. As such, those hoping for a more democratic Rwanda should look elsewhere. Operating in a transnational space appears to make life harder for the opposition, but not the Rwandan state. Further, the division, inconsistency, sudden shifts, splits, and volte-face of Rwanda’s diasporic opposition is produced, at least in part, by the competitive authoritarian nature of Rwanda. What the Rwandan case reveals, then, is at least one instance where unfair elections do not make future liberalisation more likely.

More information Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date



10 (2)


343 - 365


Rwanda, diaspora, competitive authoritarianism, transnationalism, elections, post-conflict reconstruction, politics