This special issue takes a closer look at the role and meaning of political opposition for the development of democracy across sub-Saharan Africa. Why is it that room for political opposition in most cases is severely limited? Under what circumstances has the political opposition been able to establish itself in a legitimate role in African politics? To answer these questions this special issue focuses on the institutional settings, the nature and dynamics within and between the political parties, and the relationship between the citizens and the political parties. It is found that regional devolution and federalist structures are areas where the political opposition can find room to organize and gain local power, as a supplement to influence at the central level. Important factors behind support for the opposition are a realistic appreciation of the level of democracy, dissatisfaction with corruption and pro-democratic values. Generally, however, opposition parties are lacking in organization and in institutionalization, as well as in their ability to find support in civil society and at promoting the issues that voters find most important. Overall, strong executive powers, unchecked by democratic institutions, in combination with deferential values and fear of conflict, undermine legitimate opposition activity.