Studies of electoral processes in new democracies in sub-Saharan Africa suggest that political actors- in particular the executive- may benefit from exploiting rule making as well the implementation of rules through the administrative apparatus by subjecting autonomous institutions to executive control. We refer to this as an ‘administrative and legal approach' to securing a desired election outcome. Within this perspective, we describe how the executive in two presidential systems - Uganda and Malawi - have been able to influence the electoral process to remain in power. This is illustrated by the process in advance of Uganda's presidential and parliamentary elections in 2006 and by the post-election manoeuvres of Malawi's president after the 2004 election. The two cases illustrate how the executive branch in new democracies may employ both legal means and administrative capacities to tilt the playing field in their favour and thereby determine the electoral outcome.

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