Stellenbosch University | Political Science
Profile and Mission
The Centre for Research on Democracy (CREDO) at Stellenbosch University is an interdisciplinary academic centre with a global reach dedicated to the study and promotion of democracy and its values. CREDO builds on a 25-year long history of studying democracy in South Africa in a global perspective and is strengthened by a team of academic experts on Africa, South East Asia, MENA, Latin America, Eastern and Western Europe. Disciplines represented within the centre include political science, International Relations, economics, sociology, and history.
CREDO’s institutional network includes over a dozen institutions of higher learning and research as well as two global data gathering projects: The World Values Survey (WVS) and Varieties of Democracy (V-Dem). This international academic community has readily responded to our call to help ensure the continuity of our longitudinal research on challenges to democracy in both South Africa and globally.
Besides conducting research, CREDO is steadily building up a series of initiatives designed to encourage and facilitate the study of democracy by students and young academics. Thus far, these initiatives include the African Data Hub for the Study of Democracy and the African Democracy Essay Prize. Through a series of webinars, CREDO is also positioning itself to become a national hub for debates on contemporary issues affecting South Africa’s democracy and its active promotion in the country.
Prof Ursula van Beek, Founder-Director
Van Beek’s academic career spans three decades, beginning with the first cross-cultural comparative study on democratic transitions in South Africa and Poland. She is responsible for the establishment of both the Transformation Research Initiative and the Transformation Research Unit, CREDO’s predecessor organisations.
Damien du Preez, Marketing & Communications Officer
Du Preez is a student at Stellenbosch University, finishing off a BA in Politics, Philosophy, and Economics. He’s been involved in CREDO since its inception and is passionate about discovering and communicating new scientific knowledge to policymakers and non-expert audiences.
Prof Hans Agné, Stockholm University, Sweden
Democracy beyond the state
Legitimacy in global and regional institutions
Comparative democratic politics, in particular EU politics
Normative and international theory
Prof Dirk Berg-Schlosser, Philipps University Marburg, Germany
Political culture research
Development and African studies
Prof Ebru Canan-Sokullu, Bahçesehir University, Turkey
Public opinion and foreign policy
Populism (with EU focus)
Regional power politics
Prof Nicholas Cheeseman, Birmingham University, UK
Democracy and democratization
Elections, observation, and autocracy promotion
Corruption and the social contract
The politics of Africa, including, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe
Dr Lloyd Chigowe, National University of Lesotho, Lesotho
Human rights and development
Dr Alouis Chilunjika, National University of Lesotho, Lesotho
Public management and governance
Development and African studies
Prof Yilmaz Esmer, Bahçesehir University, Turkey
Culture and cultural change
Survey research methodology
Prof Ursula Hoffmann-Lange, Bamberg University, Germany
Prof Christer Jönsson, Lund University, Sweden
Diplomacy and the role of transnational networks in international cooperation
Prof Hans-Dieter Klingemann, Social Science Centre Berlin, Germany
The quality of the democratic process
Parties and party systems
Political science as an academic discipline
Prof Radoslaw Markowski, Polish Academy of Sciences, Poland
Dr Catherine Musuva, Nairobi, Kenya
Electoral politics and democracy in Africa
Governance institutions and actors
Prof Philip Nel, University of Otago, New Zealand
Comparative politics of preferences for or against income and wealth redistribution
The political economy of development
Ethics and international relations
Prof Vello Pettai, University of Tartu, Estonia
Post-communist political development
Varieties of Democracy dataset
Dr Leon Poshai, Midlands State University, Zimbabwe
Political participation and activism
Electoral systems management
Tactics for opposition politics
Governance and public management
Dr Krige Siebrits, Stellenbosch University, South Africa
Prof Ursula van Beek, Stellenbosch University, South Africa
Historical memory and identity
Comparative historical analyses
Cultural values and democracy
Prof Dennis Lu-Chung Weng, Sam Houston State University, USA
Comparative political behaviour
East and Southeast Asian politics
Public opinion and survey research
Prof Laurence Whitehead, Oxford University, UK
Comparative politics in Latin America
International political economy
Dr Cindy Lee Steenekamp, Stellenbosch University, South Africa
Dr Guy Lamb, Stellenbosch University, South Africa
Policing and governance
Violence prevention and peacebuilding
Crime and conflict
Arms control and disarmament
Dr Derica Lambrechts, Stellenbosch University, South Africa
Organised criminal groups as domestic non-state actors
Governance complexities in African urban spaces
Political risk in Southern Africa
Prof Ann-Cathrine Jungar, Sodertorn University, Sweden
Populist and radical right political parties in the Nordic regions and Europe
Effects of ideological and organisational transformations on democracy
Political party youth organisations and militant democracy
Prof Marie-Eve Desrosiers, University of Ottawa, Canada
Governance in Africa
Authoritarianism, political protest and state-society relations
Conflict and insecurity in fragile states
African Great Lakes
Qualitative field methodologies and ethics
Kira Alberts, Stellenbosch University, South Africa
Political consultancy and public relations
Democracy and democratic consolidation in the Global South
The Transformation Research Initiative (TRI) was established in 2000 at the Centre for International and Comparative Politics at Stellenbosch University, South Africa. The predecessor for what would become the Centre for Research on Democracy, TRI was an informal group of academics who represented the disciplines of political science, sociology, economics, history, and theology, hailing from eight countries located in globally diverse cultural regions. Their common quest was the pursuit of quality research on democracy.
Following TRI came the Transformation Research Unit (TRU), launched in 2015 at Stellenbosch University, South Africa. Building on the work of TRI, and supported by many of the same academic experts, TRU’s mission was to organise research projects that would monitor the cultural conditions for the persistence of democratic regimes. In 2022, TRU was officially reorganised into the Centre for Research on Democracy, a fully institutionalised research centre to be located in the Department of Political Science at Stellenbosch University, South Africa.
CREDO continues the tradition of taking into account the fluctuating global context against which to conduct comparative case studies. The object of the inquiry is to identify and examine developments posing threats to democracy, both at the global and country levels.
Among such major threats is polarisation as it erodes respect for contrary opinions, one of the hallmarks of liberal democracy. For this reason, the first CREDO project focused on the problem of polarisation. The study included a number of case studies but is also offered insights on theory, the impact on polarisation in international diplomacy, and the role of economic inequality as one of the triggers.
Two closely interlinked longer-term comparative studies will follow at cross-regional and African regional levels to assess the full range of other dangers facing democracy in today’s world.
CREDO’s first research output was the publication of eight essays in a special issue of the Taiwan Journal for Democracy. These essays focused on the intersection of democracy and polarisation, and have also been featured in a series of three articles for Democracy in Africa.
Published in November 2022 with Palgrave Macmillan is the centre’s first major publication, an edited collection of academic essays entitled Democracy Under Pressure: Resilience or Retreat? The book can be accessed here.
Made up of contributions from CREDO research associates, the book seeks to identify the main factors shaping the fortunes of democracy globally. Why do some democracies in the same region and presumably subject to similar global influences remain stable while others regress? The book includes examinations of 16 democracies and insights from the perspectives of history, political science, economics and international relations, and is anchored in the analytical tradition.