Why Elections Fail

The spread of elections to all parts of the globe has been one of the most dramatic developments transforming our world during the twentieth century. Yet, as numerous reports have highlighted, the quality of contemporary contests commonly fails. Contentious elections undermine the legitimacy of elected authorities, political participation, and stability in fragile states. What happens when elections violate international standards of electoral integrity? Why do elections fail? And what can be done to mitigate these problems? In this seminar Professor Norris discusses her forthcoming book Why Elections Fail, which seeks to determine the reasons why elections are undermined by numerous kinds of flaws. Structural, international, and institutional accounts each provide alternative perspectives to explain general processes of democratization. These theories can be adapted for plausible arguments about why elections may fail to meet international standards.

Pippa Norris is the McGuire Lecturer in Comparative Politics at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, Research Fellow and Professor of Government and International Relations at the University of Sydney, and Director of the Electoral Integrity Project. Her research compares public opinion and elections, democratic institutions and cultures, gender politics, and political communications in many countries worldwide. A prolific author and international public speaker, she has published more than forty books (many in translation), including more recently Why Electoral Integrity Matters (2014), Making Democratic Governance Work: The Impact of Regimes on Prosperity, Welfare and Peace (2012), and Democratic Deficits: Critical Citizens Revisited (2011). She has served as the Director of Democratic Governance at the United Nations Development Program in New York, as well as an expert consultant for many international bodies including the UN, OSCE, IDEA, UNESCO, the Council of Europe, NED, and UNDP.

Date & time

Thu 05 Mar 2015, 12am


L.J Hume Centre, Copland Building (24) 1st Floor, Room 1171, ANU


Professor Pippa Norris, Harvard University and University of Sydney


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