Autocratic Adaptation: The Strategic Use of Transparency and the Persistence of Election Fraud
34 Pages Posted: 21 Aug 2012 Last revised: 23 Aug 2012
Date Written: June 29, 2012
Why would an autocrat want, or at least make it appear to want, to reduce election fraud? In recent years, non-democratic rulers have surprisingly begun to embrace fraud-reducing technologies, like web cameras or transparent ballot boxes. The reason for this is not found in international norms or domestic conditions for post-electoral protest, but rather in the null effect on the ruling party vote share. With the help of new fraud identification techniques, I argue that the installation of web cameras in polling stations changes how fraud is conducted. Web cameras do not reduce fraud, but rather make certain blatant forms of fraud, like ballot box stuffing, more costly. Autocrats then substitute for other types of fraud, such as fabricating vote count outside the view of the cameras, in order to secure electoral victory. Overall, this paper identifies this compensation mechanism where incumbents are able to prevent vote share losses, while contributing a veneer of legitimacy by self-initiating anti-fraud measures.
Keywords: Autocratic Adaptation, Institutions, Election Fraud, Ballot Stuffing, Vote-Count Fraud, Fraud Forensics, Digit-Based Tests, Election Monitoring, Web Cameras
JEL Classification: P16, D72, D73
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation