Researchers from the University of Birmingham and the London School of Economics have found that the number of elections across the world has reached an all-time high, but that this has done little to increase the quality of democracy in the world. The findings published today by Yale Books in ‘How to rig an election’ demonstrate that a remarkably high proportion of national elections are not free and fair – enabling authoritarian leaders to remain in power – with the emergence of new technology playing a part in the process of manipulation. Based on more than 500 interviews, and their own experience of watching elections on the ground in countries including; Belarus, Kenya, Madagascar, Nigeria, Thailand and Tunisia, Professor Nic Cheeseman and Dr. Brian Klaas reveal the extent of the democratic decay that has benefitted dictators around the world.
Most worryingly, the research demonstrates that not only do elections often fail to remove authoritarian leaders from power, but in many cases they actually give ailing authoritarian regimes a boost, making them appear more legitimate and opening up new funding streams.
As a result, authoritarian systems that hold elections turn out to be more stable than those that do not.
Professor Nic Cheeseman, University of Birmingham said: ‘The finding that many authoritarian leaders are using the image of democracy to strengthen their hold on power should act as an important wake up call for everyone who cares about political inclusion, accountability and human rights.