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Political Conditions for Fair Elections

Discussion Papers

No.181

November 2008

ABSTRACT

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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Please note that discussion papers are works in various stages of progress and most have not been edited and proofread and may contain errors of fact or judgment. Revised versions of these papers may subsequently appear in more formal publication series. The views expressed in this publication are those of the author(s). The IDE does not guarantee the accuracy of the data included and accepts no responsibility for any consequences arising from its use.

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