THE SOURCE: “Can International Election Monitoring Harm Governance?” by Alberto Simpser and Daniela Donno, in The Journal of Politics, April 2012.
It’s become common for election monitors to file into countries around the world to look over the shoulders of government officials counting votes. Monitors provide an important service by helping detect election-day fraud. But their impact is waning in some countries as regimes ramp up “their use of pre-election manipulation that is less likely to be criticized and punished,” write political scientists Alberto Simpser of the University of Chicago and Daniela Donno of the University of Pittsburgh. The bad news doesn’t stop there: Many of the tactics these regimes use have more insidious effects on governance than the ballot stuffing of yore.
Consider the case of Armenia. Reports of fraudulent voting and vote count manipulation were so widespread in the wake of its 2003 elections that the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, whose activities include election monitoring, issued a condemnatory report. The next time around, Armenian president Robert Kocharian and his cronies fostered biased media coverage and pressured government employees into campaigning for the regime. They got what they wanted: Pro-government forces triumphed in the 2007 parliamentary elections, and Armenia received a passing grade from the monitoring bodies. But nobody would say that Armenian governance improved.
To read the rest of this article, please consider becoming a WQ subscriber, which allows online access to the current WQ issue as well as archive content. Other access options are below.
Research, browse, and discover more than 35 years of articles, essays, and reviews by preeminent scholars and writers. Our searchable archive of back issues is free for WQ subscribers.