Vote Buying is a Good Sign!

34 Pages Posted: 26 Mar 2014 Last revised: 27 Aug 2015

See all articles by Carolien Van Ham

Carolien Van Ham

Göteborg University

Staffan I. Lindberg

Göteborg University - Varieties of Democracy Institute; Göteborg University - Department of Political Science

Date Written: 2014


Over 90 percent of the world’s states currently select their national leaders through multi-party elections. However, in Africa the quality of elections still varies widely, ranging from elections plagued by violence and fraud to elections that are relatively “free and fair”. The literature on election fraud and integrity has identified several factors explaining cross-national variation in overall levels of election integrity. Much less is known about trade offs between different strategies of electoral manipulation and the differences between incumbent and opposition actors’ strategies. Existing research suggest that incumbents engage more in vote buying while opposition engage more in election violence. We theorize that choices for specific types of manipulation are driven by available resources and cost considerations for both incumbents and opposition actors, and are mutually responsive. We also suggest that costs of manipulative strategies are shaped by the level of democratization. We test our hypotheses on time-series-cross-section data for 286 African elections from 1986 to 2012. We find that democratization initially leads to increases in vote buying as “cheap” forms of electoral manipulation available to incumbents such as intimidation and manipulating electoral administration become less viable.

Suggested Citation

Van Ham, Carolien and Lindberg, Staffan I., Vote Buying is a Good Sign! (2014). Working Paper Series No. 3, V-Dem Institute, University of Gothenburg; ASA 2014 Annual Meeting Paper. Available at SSRN: or

Carolien Van Ham

Göteborg University ( email )

Viktoriagatan 30
Göteborg, 405 30

Staffan I. Lindberg (Contact Author)

Göteborg University - Varieties of Democracy Institute ( email )

Sprängkullsgatan 19
Gothenburg, Gothenburg 405 30


Göteborg University - Department of Political Science ( email )

Box 711
Gothenburg, S-405 30


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