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Electoral Corruption

Birch, Sarah (2011) Electoral Corruption. Discussion Paper. Institute for Democracy & Conflict Resolution – Briefing Paper (IDCR-BP-05/11), Colchester.


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Introduction and background Elections are the keystone of democracy as we know it, but the spectre of corruption and manipulation hangs over all electoral processes. For as long as elections have been held, they have been subject to efforts to corrupt them. Vote-buying and fraud were features of elections in ancient Athens and Sparta two and a half thousand years ago (Staveley, 1972: chap. 5) as well as in early modern elections across the world (Posada-Carbó, 1996; 2000), and the same problems haunt electoral conduct in virtually all contemporary states. Moreover, there is evidence to suggest that electoral corruption may be growing as a problem. Not so many decades ago, many of the world‟s most authoritarian states refrained from holding elections at all, whereas in the post-Cold War world, changes in value systems and the forces of globalisation have made it increasingly difficult for states to resist the pressure at least to pay lip service to democracy. Consequently, many more states have begun to hold elections, though the quality of electoral conduct in a number of them leaves much to be desired. Before embarking on a review of the scholarly literature on this topic, it is necessary to provide a brief consideration of what is meant by the term „electoral corruption‟ and what types of activities are collected under this rubric. The phenomenon here termed „electoral corruption‟ goes by a number of names: electoral malpractice, electoral misconduct, electoral malfeasance, electoral fraud, and electoral manipulation. These terms will be used interchangeably in the present analysis. The defining feature of this activity is that it involves the abuse of electoral institutions for personal or political gain. Electoral corruption can be broken down for the sake of convenience into three types according to object: the manipulation of rules (the legal framework), the manipulation of voters (preference-formation and expression) and the manipulation of voting (electoral administration) (see also Birch, 2009). The manipulation of rules involves the distortion of electoral laws so as to benefit one party or contestant in an election. Electoral rules are manipulated to some extent in virtually all states, democratic or otherwise, but electoral rule manipulation can be classified as a form of electoral corruption when it seriously distorts the level playing field subtending elections, as, for example, when the rules governing candidacy prevent certain political forces from contesting elections, or when large sectors of the adult population are excluded from the franchise. This survey of electoral corruption provides an overview of the phenomenon, including a summary of the scholarly research on the topic and an assessment of the relevance of research findings for the practitioner community. The paper is grounded on the assumption that elections are the keystone of modern democracy, and that understanding electoral corruption and addressing its main causes can improve electoral integrity around the world.

Item Type: Monograph (Discussion Paper)
Subjects: J Political Science > JA Political science (General)
Divisions: Faculty of Social Sciences > Government, Department of
Depositing User: Jim Jamieson
Date Deposited: 03 Dec 2012 13:24
Last Modified: 03 Dec 2012 13:24

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