• party competition;
  • party patronage;
  • new democracies;
  • Ghana;
  • South Africa

State exploitation by political parties is one of the key problems of new democracies. This article looks at party patronage as one of the ways through which political parties exploit the state. It focuses on two new African democracies – Ghana and South Africa – and using the data from an original expert survey explores party appointments across a wide range of state institutions. It also uses these data to illustrate some of the theoretical issues related to the existence of patronage practices. In particular, the article probes into a widespread claim that robust party competition constrains politicians and hence limits patronage politics. Contrary to those theoretical expectations, the article finds that patronage in new democracies is not necessarily higher in a less competitive party system. The article then considers factors other than party competition that might explain this unexpected empirical outcome; it also suggests a theoretical argument positing compatibility between high levels of patronage and robust political competition.