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How electoral malpractice travels: the diffusion of electoral malpractice in the post-Soviet space

Elections
International Relations
Parliaments
Regionalism
Representation
Ann-Sophie Gast
Freie Universität Berlin
Sarah Dingler
University of Innsbruck
Ann-Sophie Gast
Freie Universität Berlin

Abstract

Elections are central to the consolidation of democratic processes and to the empowerment of actors in political systems. Hence, violation of electoral integrity is one of the most crucial forms of political manipulation. Today, in most of the former member states of the Soviet Union we observe undemocratic elections. While many studies treat electoral malpractice as occurring in a vacuum, it can be assumed that electoral malpractice is contagious between countries that belong to the same region. Moreover, despite elections’ significance for democratic transition, only little systematic cross-national analyses exist, which study the factors that facilitate the diffusion of flawed electoral processes. This paper contributes to this research field by addressing the question of how a powerful regional hegemon affects the diffusion of electoral malpractice over time. Drawing on data of the OSCE and the PARLINE database, the paper analyses electoral processes in the 15 post-Soviet countries between 1990 and 2015. Thereby, the analysis will control for the effect of electoral system design on the diffusion of undemocratic elections in the post-Soviet space. In line with the ‘authoritarian diffusion’-argument, it draws attention to the continuing impact of post-Soviet legacy and the influence of Russia on electoral processes in its neighbouring countries. Furthermore, it sheds light on how authoritarian learning takes place in the field of electoral systems. We assume that the electoral practice prevailing in Russia as the regional hegemon impacts on the practices in the other non-Baltic post-Soviet states and that electoral malpractices diffuses trough emulation. Furthermore, we expect to find that elections in single-member district-systems (SMD) under plurality and majority rule are more prone to be object of malpractice than elections in systems of proportional representation (PR).