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Election Observer Effects: A Field Experiment in the Russian Duma Election of 2011

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... This does not mean however that interventions to strengthen electoral integrity are always considered effective or even positive. For instance, when it comes to the presence of election observers at individual polling stations, it has been shown that these may at times struggle to deter malpractices, particularly in more authoritarian settings where officials and local actors may be less sensitive to criticism and more likely to ignore the presence of observers (Buzin, Brondum andRobertson 2016, Sjoberg 2016). Studies have also shown that the presence of election observers at one location can at times divert attempted malpractices to other locations (Ichino andSchundeln 2012, Asunka, et al. 2019). ...
... In case women are for example hindered from even leaving their own houses and therefore are unable to vote, then the presence of PSOs at the polling station will of course be irrelevant. Second, as highlighted earlier, some studies have indicated that election observers may not always be able to deter electoral malpractices, especially in more authoritarian settings, where officials or local actors are less sensitive to the criticism of outsiders and therefore may be more likely to completely ignore them (Buzin, Brondum andRobertson 2016, Sjoberg 2016). It therefore remains an empirical question whether PSOs actually can deter female disenfranchisement or not. ...
Thesis
The thesis studies challenges to electoral integrity in unconsolidated democracies and seeks to examine possible strategies or remedies that can alleviate these. I present three empirical studies on the topic. The first empirical study focuses on female electoral participation and disenfranchisement in Pakistan and examines whether the presence of election observers at female-only polling stations can influence this. The study makes use of the random allocation of domestic observers to individual polling stations during the 2008 Pakistan general elections, to estimate causal effects of observer presence on turnout in female-only polling stations. The second study analyses electoral malpractices in individual polling stations in Ukraine and examines the association between existing local support for the fraudulent party and the use of malpractices to either inflate or suppress votes. The study compares polling station data between two consequent presidential elections in 2004 in Ukraine and uses election forensics methods to measure the occurrence and type of different malpractices. The third and final study considers politicians’ evaluations of electoral integrity in Malawi and analyses the impact of partisanship and concerns raised by election observer in determining these evaluations. To gauge politicians’ evaluations on electoral integrity, the study makes use of an elite-level survey in Malawi with an embedded experiment. The findings of the empirical studies point to some potentials but also trials when it comes to alleviating challenges to electoral integrity in unconsolidated democracies.
... Furthermore, immigrants' socioeconomic status is supposedly lower than the average in the host countries, which also may induce politicians to target those voters. Second, whereas for domestic elections polling workers and election observers ensure the correctness of the voting procedure (Buzin, Brondum, and Robertson 2016;Ichino and Schündeln 2012), overseas voting typically uses postal and internet voting, which are less subject to official oversight mechanisms (Hill 2016;Massicotte, Blais, and Yoshinaka 2004). ...
... For national elections, polling workers and election observers check whether the voting follows a lawful procedure. Recent studies showed that the presence of observers suppressed fraudulent and corrupt behavior during the electoral process (Buzin, Brondum, and Robertson 2016;Ichino and Schündeln 2012). It is highly unlikely, however, that these mechanisms are applied in overseas ballots. ...
Preprint
Although immigrant populations have grown worldwide, their electoral connections with their home countries have been understudied. This study investigated vote-buying in the overseas ballot. Focusing on the 2018 federal elections in Mexico, we assumed that the recent reform of extending voting rights abroad, the lower socioeconomic status of the immigrants, the dubious secret ballot, and the weak oversight mechanisms in overseas ballots provided favorable conditions for buying expatriates' votes through the cross-border networks. Our list experiment found that approximately 32 percent of Mexican immigrants in the US experienced vote-buying during the electoral campaign. Furthermore, multivariate analysis showed that the most susceptible to vote-buying were those who were female, young, full-time workers, contacted by party activists, supporters of PAN (Partido Acción Nacional) and MORENA (Movimiento Regeneración Nacional), and living where there was a high concentration of Hometown Associations (HTAs).
... The main concern in selecting the city sample was the prevalence of electoral fraud, which had been continuously increasing since the early 2000s (Shpilkin, 2011;Enikolopov et al., 2013;Buzin et al., 2016;Kobak et al., 2016) and had reached a new high during the 2016 elections (Kalinin and Mebane, 2017). Since electoral fraud was not uniformly distributed across localities, we excluded from our sample cities with exceptionally high levels of fraud in the previous elections. ...
... Kehadiran Movement for Defence of Voters' Rights (GOLOS) semasa pilihan raya di Duma, Russia pada 2011 tidak memberi kesan terhadap jumlah undi diterima United Russia, selaku pemerintah di wilayah itu. Hal ini kerana, DEMOs zombie ini gagal mengesan sebarang bentuk penipuan dan manipulasi pilihan raya yang dilakukan oleh kerajaan bagi meningkatkan sokongan undi mereka (Buzin, Brondum & Robertson, 2016;Skovoroda & Lankina, 2017). GOLOS juga cenderung untuk melantik "pakar pemantauan" yang diragui kompetensinya, contohnya seperti Mateusz Piskorski dan Bartosz Kownacki daripada Poland yang juga merupakan penyokong kuat kepada kerajaan Russia. ...
Article
Free and fair are the ideals of a democratic election. These ideals underscore the idea on how much an elected government can be construed as a legitimate ruling body. Election monitoring organisations, apart from political parties, have played significant roles in observing, measuring and assessing electoral procedures and processes. Nevertheless, academic research on these organisations often overlooked and thus very limited. Most of the electoral studies frequently reflected the organisations in a passing mention, rather than providing a focused and detailed examination, particularly in the Malaysian political science corpus. This article, therefore, intends to fill this lacuna by providing an analysis over the nature, functions and operation of domestic election monitoring organisations in Malaysia. More specifically, this article explores the existence of zombie electoral monitor organisations in the 2013 and the 2018 General Elections. Based on the studies of three selected electoral watch organisations, this article argues that zombie electoral monitors were cunningly engineered by the then ruling party to invoke the idea of lawfulness in its electoral process, and thus providing legitimacy to the government although there were many discrepancies and authoritarian manipulation along the process. This was rather inevitable to a state of hybrid political system, such as Malaysia, whereby elections are still needed to renew legitimacy to its political elites. Most of the arguments made in this article are based on a qualitative research, namely by doing interviews with the relevant actors, direct observations and library studies.
... Still, the same studies also show that manipulations are often merely displaced geographically or substituted by other types of malpractice, and it must be noted that one experimental study found little to no effect of the presence of monitors on fraud. 79 ...
Article
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Holding elections has become a global norm, even in autocracies; at the same time, there is mounting evidence to suggest that flawed or failed elections pose serious risks for political stability, legitimacy, and participation. Scholars and practitioners alike increasingly see domestic election monitoring groups to be a partial remedy to electoral malpractice. At least half of elections globally are monitored by such groups and large sums of international aid spent on them. However, scholarly research about the causes, dynamics, and consequences of domestic election monitoring and advocacy is scattered. This article sets out to present an overview of the academic literature on domestic monitoring. It discusses activities and actors, and presents empirical insights on the prevalence, accuracy, credibility and impartiality of monitors, as well as participation in monitoring, and its impacts on electoral integrity. It outlines gaps and open questions for a future research agenda. The review contributes to the practice, empirics and theory of election monitoring and links to broader scholarly inquiries about the embedding of human rights norms in national elections.
... Во-вторых, некоторые авторы пессимистично оценивают возможности также и независимых общественных контролёров. Например, результаты эксперимента, проведённого во время выборов депутатов Государственной думы 2011 г. в 22 российских городах Бузиным и соавторами, не позволяют говорить о том, что присутствие в местах голосования независимых наблюдателей оказало существенное влияние на результаты выборов (Buzin, Brondum and Robertson, 2016). В частности, присутствие наблюдателей не имело значимого эффекта на долю голосов, полученных партией «Единая Россия», а в семи городах в УИК без независимых общественных контролёров она была даже ниже, чем в тех комиссиях, где они были (Buzin, Brondum and Robertson, 2016: 187). ...
Article
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The article includes a literature review on election observation in contemporary Russia and empirical research of the election observation influence on the results of the gubernatorial election in St. Petersburg. In the literature review section, the two approaches towards election observation are distinguished: election observation as a tool of control and participation, and election observation as imitation and legitimation. In the empirical section, due to the lack of systematic data, election observation is operationalized as the share of election committee members nominated by different political forces. The empirical section concludes with the thesis about the limited effect of the electoral monitoring on the incumbent’s results (the results of the acting governor were to a higher extent influenced by the turnout level, the share of voters, who cast their ballots at home, and those who voted against all of the candidates). The results of the analysis support the argument about the existence of two models of election observation: participatory and imitation-legitimizing. In the concluding section the possible directions for further research are suggested: studying of the electoral fraud mechanisms at the level of individual election committees, legitimation of frauded results, and ways in which independent election committee members and election observers combat and prevent electoral fraud.
... There are several studies on the significant contribution of election monitoring group towards having free and fair election in Africa. These numerous literature include studies by Geisler (1993), Hyde (2011), Daxecker (2014, Lewis and Kew (2015), Buzin, Brondum and Robertson (2016) However, having studied the above mentioned literature on the role play by the international election monitoring group in Africa, it was observed that limited studies is found juxtaposing the prons and cons of the role played by electoral observers in the African democracies. Thus, it is against this backdrop that this study is examining whether the involvement of international election observers is a blessing or curse to African democracies. ...
Article
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The election observer is one of the stakeholders of the electoral process in Africa. The role of the international observers just like other players of the electoral process, is to ensure free, fair and credible election. This body mostly work hand in hand with civil society group/organization in order to ensure smooth conduct of election. Election observers have been seen as democracy police in Africa which has added value to the conduct and manner at which election is being managed in the society. Although, many studies have been conducted on both positive contribution and negative impact of the election observers into the system, but this study will juxtapose the two sides of a coin to examine whether the role of the observer is a blessing or curse to the development of Africa and its democratic consolidation. The study makes use of Normative Theory to explain the role and contribution of election observers to the democratic consolidation in Africa. The study is a qualitative, and it employs the use of secondary source of data to explain the pros and cons of the international election observers towards monitoring election that mostly usher-in the transition of power from one democratically elected leader to another in Africa.
... Kehadiran Movement for Defence of Voters' Rights (GOLOS) semasa pilihan raya di Duma, Russia pada 2011 tidak memberi kesan terhadap jumlah undi diterima United Russia, selaku pemerintah di wilayah itu. Hal ini kerana, DEMOs zombie ini gagal mengesan sebarang bentuk penipuan dan manipulasi pilihan raya yang dilakukan oleh kerajaan bagi meningkatkan sokongan undi mereka (Buzin, Brondum & Robertson, 2016;Skovoroda & Lankina, 2017). GOLOS juga cenderung untuk melantik "pakar pemantauan" yang diragui kompetensinya, contohnya seperti Mateusz Piskorski dan Bartosz Kownacki daripada Poland yang juga merupakan penyokong kuat kepada kerajaan Russia. ...
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Konotasi bersih dan adil adalah ideal sesebuah pilihan raya yang demokratik. Ia antara lain, menggarisbawahi sejauh mana legitimasi sesebuah kerajaan yang dipilih melalui pilihan raya. Selain dari parti politik, organisasi-organisasi pemantauan pilihan raya memainkan peranan penting dalam memerhati, mengukur dan menilai perjalanan sesebuah pilihan raya. Namun, kajian terhadap organisasi-organisasi ini sangat kurang mendapat tempat. Kebanyakan tulisan ilmiah yang menyentuh organisasi-organisasi ini bersifat kurang terfokus dan hanya melibatkan pemerihalan sampingan, khasnya di dalam korpus ilmu sains politik di Malaysia. Artikel ini, untuk itu, secara amnya diasaskan untuk menganalisis sifat, fungsi dan operasi organisasi-organisasi pemantauan pilihan raya domestik di Malaysia. Manakala, secara khusus, artikel ini cuba membangkitkan kes kewujudan pemantau pilihan raya zombie di dalam Pilihan Raya Umum 2013 dan 2018. Berdasarkan kajian ke atas tiga organisasi pemantauan zombie di dalam kedua-dua pilihan raya itu, artikel ini menghujahkan organisasi pemantauan zombie telah di rekayasa secara kreatif oleh parti pemerintah untuk mengabsahkan pilihan raya, sekali gus memberi legitimasi kepada pemerintah meskipun terdapat pelbagai manipulasi autoritarian di dalam pilihan raya itu. Hal ini adalah sesuatu yang tidak dapat dielakkan bagi sesebuah negara yang mempunyai sistem politik hibrid yang tinggi, di mana pilihan raya masih perlu dilakukan bagi memperbaharui legitimasi pemerintahan. Kebanyakan hujahan dan analisis di dalam artikel diperoleh melalui temu bual dengan aktor-aktor penting, pemerhatian langsung dan kajian kepustakaan.
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Electoral fraud is a common problem in young democracies. Election observers constitute one possible remedy. Yet, quantitative evidence of the causal effects of different types of observers is scarce. Data on the random assignment of observers during Mozambique’s 2009 general elections are used to estimate the impact that observers have on electoral results. We are able to distinguish between domestic observers that stayed in the same ballot table for the whole of the election day, who were deployed countrywide, and international observers that circulated across a number of ballot locations, assigned within selected districts. We show that the presence of domestic observers reduced voter turnout and increased the share of blank votes countrywide. This suggests a reduction of ballot fraud activities. For the selected districts in which international observers were active findings are less clear, as we do not find ballot fraud-reducing effects for any of the two types of observers. A possible interpretation is that local politicians anticipate the presence of international electoral observers in convenient districts or use different fraudulent strategies.
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Why are some elections manipulated more severely than others, and why do the techniques used to manipulate them vary over time and space? This article addresses these related questions by showing that patronage resources—not incumbent popularity—make manipulation appealing to frontline agents, while local political conditions can make manipulation personally risky for them. Agents can mitigate these risks by adopting more dispersed forms of manipulation like vote-buying, rather than more centralised falsification. These hypotheses are tested using forensic analysis of electoral data from more than 90,000 precincts per election across Russia’s 83 regions, from 2003 to 2012.
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The authors explore how modern autocrats win elections by inducing employers to mobilize their employees to vote for the regime and thereby subvert the electoral process. using two original surveys of employers and workers conducted around the 2011 parliamentary elections in russia, they find that just under one-quarter of employers engaged in some form of political mobilization. they then develop a simple framework for identifying which firms engage in voter mobilization and which workers are targeted for mobilization. firms that are vulnerable to state pressure—financially dependent firms and those in sectors characterized by asset immobility—are among the most common sites of workplace-based electoral subversion. the authors also find that workers who are especially dependent on their employer are more likely to be targeted for mobilization. By identifying the conditions under which workplace mobilization occurs in authoritarian regimes, the authors contribute to the long-standing debate about the economic bases of democratization. in addition, they explore an understudied means of subverting elections in contemporary autocracies: the use of economic coercion to mobilize voters. Moreover, their research finds that clientelist exchange can thrive in industrial settings and in the absence of deeply embedded political parties.
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Randomized field experiments have gained attention within the field of democracy promotion and within the social sciences as an influential tool for causal inference and a potentially powerful method of impact evaluation. With an eye towards facilitating field experimentation in democracy promotion, this article presents the first field-experimental study of international election monitoring, an application of field experimental methods that should be of interest to both practitioners and academics. I use the random assignment of international observers during election-day observation of the 2004 presidential elections in Indonesia to illustrate how experiments can be used to evaluate the effects monitoring on election-day behavior. The study demonstrates that international observers can influence even democratic elections, and underscores that experiments have a unique ability to reveal unanticipated effects of democracy promotion programs.
Article
Elections are among the most important and least understood institutions in contemporary authoritarian regimes. Theoretically, electoral authoritarian regimes should have an informational advantage that makes them more robust than other types of authoritarian regimes, but much empirical evidence suggests otherwise. In this paper we offer a new perspective on why this might be the case. Specifically, we consider how authoritarian elections influence a ruler’s choices in making cadre appointments. We argue that the imperative of winning authoritarian elections forces authoritarian leaders to prioritize the appointment of politically loyal cadres, who can help the regime win elections. This choice often comes at the expense of appointing officials who are competent at making good public policy and promoting economic development, factors that may contribute to long-term regime stability. We test this theory using an original dataset of gubernatorial appointments in one leading contemporary authoritarian regime, Russia.
Article
Why has the decision to invite foreign election observers become an international norm? More generally, how do international norms develop in the absence of incentives for cooperation or activism by norm entrepreneurs? Motivated by the case of election observation, I argue that international norms can be generated through a diffusely motivated signaling process. Responding to increased benefits associated with being democratic, international election observation was initiated by democratizing governments as a signal of a government's commitment to democracy. Increased democracy-contingent benefits gave other “true-democrats” the incentive to invite observers, resulting in a widespread belief that all true-democrats invite election monitors. Consequently, not inviting observers became an unambiguous signal that a government was not democratizing, giving even pseudo-democrats reason to invite observers and risk a negative report. I evaluate this theory with an original global dataset on elections and election observation, 1960–2006.
Article
By pressuring governments to hold democratic elections and by becoming directly involved in the electoral process through technical assistance and funding or as election monitors, international actors now play a visible role in domestic elections and other democratic processes throughout the developing world. Although scholars have documented several macrolevel relationships between international-level variables and movement toward democracy, there has been little attention paid to the microlevel effects of international involvement in the democratization process. This article examines the effects of international election observation as a prominent form of international involvement in domestic elections and exploits a natural experiment in order to test whether international observers reduce election fraud. Using data from the 2003 presidential elections in Armenia, the article demonstrates that although observers may not eliminate election fraud, they can reduce election-day fraud at the polling stations they visit. The unusual advantage of experiment-like conditions for this study offers unique causal evidence that international actors can have direct, measurable effects on the level of election-day fraud and, by extension, on the democratization process.
Article
Serious allegations of fraud have been made with respect to Russia's first competitive party-based parliamentary election in December 1993 - the same election in which Russian's ostensibly ratified a new constitution for themselves. Although charges of fraud are common in elections, these allegations are especially serious in that the argument here was that over 9 million ballots were fraudulently cast and that the turnout threshold of 50% required to render the constitutional referendum legitimate was in fact not surpassed. These are profoundly important allegations. First, they bring into question the legitimacy of Russia's new constitution and thereby offer its opponents an excuse to suspend its provisions some time in the future. Second, they naturally enough cause us to be suspicious of Russia's December 1995 parliamentary elections. Finally, to the extent that the same methods for detecting fraud are likely to be applied to subsequent elections, if they revel significant levels of fraud there, they can provide an excuse for canceling those elections or invalidating their results. In this essay, then, we look at the two methodologies employed to detect and measure the extent of fraud in 1993. Without disputing the possibility that fraud was in fact extensive, we conclude that neither methodology as presently developed is adequate to the task at hand. The first, which assumes that we should observe a linear relationship between the log of the rank of parties and the log of their support at the polls employ s a number of ad hoc assumptions and a priori estimates that, in sum, are equivalent to assuming the conclusion. The second method, which looks at the relationship between turnout and the share of the electorate voting for one party or position versus another, is subject to a number of methodological pitfalls, including aggregation error and the possibility that unobserved variables correlate with both turnout and support so as to render any relationship indeterminate. Nevertheless, of the two methodologies, the second is the most promising for further development and our critique of it is intended to point the way to the requisite developments.
Cracks in the wall: challenges to electoral authoritarianism in Russia
  • Vladimir Gel'man
Gel'man, Vladimir, 2013. Cracks in the wall: challenges to electoral authoritarianism in Russia. Probl. Post Communism 60 (2), 3e10.
Elections and referendum december 12, 1993 in Russia: political results, perspectives truthworthiness of the results
  • A Sobyanin
  • V Suchovolskiy
Sobyanin, A., Suchovolskiy, V., 1993. Elections and referendum december 12, 1993 in Russia: political results, perspectives truthworthiness of the results. In: Unpublished Report to the Administration of the President of the RF by the Special Analytical Group on Parliamentary Elections.
Changes in the menu of manipulation: electoral fraud, ballot stuffing, and voter pressure in the 2011 Russian election
  • Cole J Harvey
Harvey, Cole J., 2016. Changes in the menu of manipulation: electoral fraud, ballot stuffing, and voter pressure in the 2011 Russian election. Elect. Stud. 41, 105e117.
  • D Kobak
  • S Shpilkin
  • M S Pshenichnikov
Kobak, D., Shpilkin, S., Pshenichnikov, M.S., 2012. Statistical Anomalies in 2011e2012 Russian Elections Revealed by 2D Correlation Analysis arXiv: 1205.0741v2 [physics.soc-ph] 17 May 2012.