Political Conditions for Fair Elections

Discussion Papers


by KAWANAKA Takeshi

November 2008


Democracy is not necessarily consolidated simply by the introduction of formal democratic institutions. It is often observed in new democracies that democratic institutions are neglected and eroded in actual practice. Particularly, electoral fraud committed by a ruler is one of the main problems in this regard. This paper deals with two questions, (1) under what conditions does a ruler have an incentive to hold fair elections (or to rig elections), and (2) what makes a ruler prefer to establish an independent election governing institution? Assuming that a ruler prefers to maintain her power, basically she has an incentive to rig elections in order to be victorious in the political competition. A ruler, however, faces the risk of losing power if the opposition stages successful protests on a sufficiently large scale. If opponents are able to pose a credible threat to a ruler, she will have an incentive to hold fair elections. The problem is that information on electoral fraud is not shared by every player in the game. For the opposition, imperfect information deepens their coordination problems. Imperfect information, on the other hand, in some cases causes a problem for a ruler. If the opposition is sufficiently cohesive and have little tolerance of cheating, even unverified suspicions of fraud may trigger menacing protests. In such a case, a ruler has an incentive to establish an independent election commission to avoid unnecessary collisions by revealing the nature of the elections.

Keywords: democracy, election, governance, democratic consolidation, institution

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