Impatient dictators: ‘How to Rig an Election’


Authoritarian states are using all-too familiar constitutional mechanisms to consolidate power, according to activist-journalists Tamara Grigoryeva and Ismail Djalilov. Across Eurasia, snap elections happen rather frequently, they write for Open Democracy:

In some contexts, such as after revolutions and during political crises, they make sense (Kyrgyzstan, possibly soon Armenia). In other contexts, while there are clearly circumstances that do require snap elections, it’s also obvious that this mechanism is used by authoritarian regimes (Turkey). And then there are clear-cut dictatorships that shamelessly use snap elections to run their own show (Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan), and once one country is able to pull this trick off, others start copying it.

“One way of looking at what purpose snap elections serve is: what purpose do elections serve? If elections are a complete show, snap elections are probably also a complete show. Generally, snap elections are critical to the point that elections are critical, as a general rule of thumb,” says Karabekir Akkoyunlu, a research associate at the Centre for Southeast European Studies, University of Graz.

In the 21st century, strongmen have learned that it’s easier to stay in power by rigging elections than by not holding them at all, according to Nic Cheeseman and Brian Klaas, authors of the new book, How to Rig an Election. Right now, those who rig elections are outfoxing not only their own citizens but the international community as well. Unless we learn how to identify those strategies and address them, then the quality of elections will continue to decline. Over time, this is likely to call into question the basic legitimacy of democracy, as people grow frustrated with elections that fail to bring change, they write for Foreign Policy:

One of the main things that democracy has going for it today is that despite its limitations, it remains the preferred political system of most people living in Africa, Latin America, and post-communist Europe, according to surveys conducted by organizations such as the Afrobarometer and Latinobarometer. But this support has limits. If democracy continues to generate instability and tension without actually delivering accountability and inclusion, authoritarian alternatives will start to look increasingly attractive.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email