Elections in Non-Democracies
48 Pages Posted: 18 Sep 2014 Last revised: 15 May 2018
Date Written: April 2018
Free and fair elections are the cornerstone of a democratic system, but elections are common in other regimes as well. Such an election might be a pure farce, with the incumbents getting close to 100% of the vote. In other instances, incumbents allow opposition candidates to be on the ballot and run campaigns, limit electoral fraud, e.g., by inviting international observers, all to make elections appear fair. In our model, the incumbent is informed about his popularity, and having a fair election allows him to signal his popularity to the people. After casting their vote, heterogeneous citizens decide whether or not to participate in a protest, and they are more willing to do so if they expect others to protest as well. We demonstrate theoretically that regimes that have a high level of elite repression are less likely to have fair elections, but regimes with a high cost of protesting for ordinary citizens make fair elections more likely. These findings are consistent with empirical evidence we provide.
Keywords: non-democratic politics, dictatorship, elections, fraud, protests, revolutions, signaling
JEL Classification: H00, D72, D82
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation