The Electoral Tango: The Evolution of Electoral Integrity in Electoral Authoritarian Regimes

Seminar 16

Date:             5 August, 2014

Time:            4 - 5.15pm

Venue:        Building 24, Copland, Room 1171, LJ Hume Centre

Speaker:  Sarah Birch is Professor of Comparative Politics at the University of Glasgow. She specialises in the study of ethics and misconduct and has been involved in projects with a variety of intergovernmental organisations, including the United Nations Development Programme, the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, International IDEA, the Global Commission on Elections, Democracy and Security, and the United States Agency for International Development, as well as UK-based institutions such as the Electoral Commission, the Department for International Development, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the Westminster Foundation for Democracy and the Association of Electoral Administrators. Her current research has two main foci: corruption perceptions and electoral integrity. She has published articles in journals including Political Studies, Comparative Political Studies, the European Journal of Political Research and the European Political Science Review. Her most recent monograph is Electoral Malpractice (Oxford University Press, 2011).

Paper Title:  The Electoral Tango: The Evolution of Electoral Integrity in Electoral Authoritarian Regimes

Paper Abstract:  This paper provides a novel account of the evolution of electoral integrity in contemporary electoral authoritarian regimes. The main argument is that because in the 21st century the politics of electoral reform revolves mainly around the implementation of democratic electoral principles rather than around the principles themselves, electoral authoritarian leaders tend to employ forms of electoral abuse that entail giving unfair advantage to pro-regime electoral competitors, rather than excluding either voters or competitors from the electoral arena altogether. When such regimes become weakened, they tend to ramp up forms of manipulation that favour pro-regime political forces. This deterioration in election quality then serves as a focal point which mobilises both domestic and international pressure for electoral reform, as the erosion of established electoral rights generates grievances. Under the right circumstances, such mobilisation can lead to step changes in the quality of elections. Though in and of themselves none of these arguments is entirely original, their synthesis yields a new one-step-back-two-steps-forward model of electoral change which is in several ways quite distinct from existing understandings of the relationship between elections and democratisation. This model, which I term the ‘electoral tango’, has implications for how we evaluate and address electoral malpractice in the contemporary world.

Date & time

Tue 05 Aug 2014, 12am


Updated:  29 July 2015/Responsible Officer:  Head of School/Page Contact:  CASS Marketing & Communications