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Monitoring Democracy

Monitoring Democracy: When International Election Observation Works, and Why It Often Fails

Judith G. Kelley
Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 352
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  • Book Info
    Monitoring Democracy
    Book Description:

    In recent decades, governments and NGOs--in an effort to promote democracy, freedom, fairness, and stability throughout the world--have organized teams of observers to monitor elections in a variety of countries. But when more organizations join the practice without uniform standards, are assessments reliable? When politicians nonetheless cheat and monitors must return to countries even after two decades of engagement, what is accomplished? Monitoring Democracy argues that the practice of international election monitoring is broken, but still worth fixing. By analyzing the evolving interaction between domestic and international politics, Judith Kelley refutes prevailing arguments that international efforts cannot curb government behavior and that democratization is entirely a domestic process. Yet, she also shows that democracy promotion efforts are deficient and that outside actors often have no power and sometimes even do harm.

    Analyzing original data on over 600 monitoring missions and 1,300 elections, Kelley grounds her investigation in solid historical context as well as studies of long-term developments over several elections in fifteen countries. She pinpoints the weaknesses of international election monitoring and looks at how practitioners and policymakers might help to improve them.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-4252-0
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. Illustrations
    (pp. xi-xii)
  4. Tables
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. Preface
    (pp. xv-xviii)
    Judith G. Kelley
  6. Abbreviations
    (pp. xix-xx)
  7. PART I

    • CHAPTER 1 Introduction
      (pp. 3-15)

      Despite contentious debate over the years about whether it is putting the cart before the horse,² the international community continues to push countries to hold elections as a way to promote freedom and democracy. Indeed, international election monitoring has become the primary tool of democracy promotion.³ Today diverse organizations flock to observe elections all over the world and broadcast their findings to the domestic and international communities. These efforts have become a true growth industry, involving global and regional intergovernmental organizations as well as nongovernmental agencies and organizations (Figure 1.1). Given that countries have traditionally guarded elections as a strictly...

    • CHAPTER 2 The Rise of a New Norm
      (pp. 16-42)

      The dispute about the unification of Moldovia and Wallachia following the Crimean War led to a manipulated election,¹ which the Ottomans finally nullified under international pressure.² As a result, in 1857 a European Commission established by the Treaty of Paris observed the elections in the territories.³ Since this first observer mission, international election monitoring developed in several ways. After its founding in 1945, the United Nations (UN) supervised many elections in “Trust and Non-Self-Governing Territories.”⁴ The Organization of American States (OAS) also started observing elections on a small scale in sovereign states in 1962, and starting in 1964, the Commonwealth...

    • CHAPTER 3 The Shadow Market
      (pp. 43-58)

      The rise of monitoring had the paradoxical effect of encouraging numerous countries to invite international monitors and then cheat right in front of them. The election in Panama in 1989 was a prime example, and although the U.S. invasion that followed demonstrated the hazards of such behavior, it nonetheless continues. In 2004, for example, monitors logged enough problems to find about one-fifth of the elections they observed unacceptable. Even in Afghanistan in 2009, when the eyes of the entire world were directed toward the country, cheating was blatant. This chapter explores the challenges continued cheating has raised for international monitors...

    • CHAPTER 4 What Influences Monitors’ Assessments?
      (pp. 59-76)

      Two facts are by now quite obvious: Some organizations assess elections more leniently than others, and no organization has a perfect track record.² Observers sometimes recount political briefings before missions that reveal organizational biases.³ As noted in a training document for European Commission election observers, sometimes observers are “allowing themselves to be swayed by the political interests of their home countries or the dispatching organization.”⁴ Biases were present in the earliest of missions,⁵ but time has not erased them. One need only look at the 2008 presidential election in Armenia where both the European Parliament (EP) and the Organization for...

    • CHAPTER 5 Do Politicians Change Tactics to Evade Criticism?
      (pp. 77-94)

      The previous chapter showed that whether monitors denounce an election depends partly on the types of irregularities committed. This raises an important issue: If politicians realize that they are less likely to be denounced for certain types of irregularities, do they or their accomplices stop cheating overtly and instead shrewdly shift their cheating to these less risky forms to evade criticism?¹ If they do, monitors may not only misjudge elections at times, but also distort how they are actually conducted. This is a serious concern.

      But is it justified?

      Politicians certainly do cheat quite creatively; some incumbents even try to...

  8. PART II

    • CHAPTER 6 International Monitors as Reinforcement
      (pp. 97-111)

      Ultimately international monitoring groups hope to do more than assess elections; they seek to improve them. The previous chapters have shown that monitors do not always provide unbiased information and may sometimes endorse fraudulent elections. This problem makes it even more imperative to consider what benefits international monitors do provide. If there are drawbacks to international monitors in terms of inaccuracy and bias, do they create benefits in terms of improvements in elections? Elections may suffer from at least two ailments. First, politicians may cheat. Second, countries may run elections poorly because they lack capacity and experience. By bearing witness...

    • CHAPTER 7 Are Monitored Elections Better?
      (pp. 112-130)

      This chapter examines the influence of international monitors on the quality of individual elections. Using quantitative data to examine the quality of elections provides a far greater breadth of analysis than case studies alone can accomplish. However, using quantitative data to explore the effects of monitors on a given election is complicated. As discussed in Chapter 2, whether an election is monitored depends both on the organizations’ interest in observing an election and on domestic willingness to host observers. Both of these factors are likely to be related to the expected quality of an election. This is the classic problem...

    • CHAPTER 8 Long-Term Effects
      (pp. 131-154)

      The previous chapter found that good elections are more likely when monitors are present. However, this says nothing about whether improvements are sustained. Nor does a focus on single elections make it possible to explore whether, despite several persistently bad monitored elections, improvement may occur in the long run. To examine this, it is necessary to research individual countries over longer periods of time. No study has ever systematically compared how several countries respond to recommendations by monitors in the long run, and whether the overall quality of elections improves throughout multiple monitored elections. That is what this chapter does....

  9. Conclusion: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
    (pp. 155-180)

    International election monitoring has become the most prominent tool in the liberal effort to promote democracy and create a more stable and just world. After elections, media organizations everywhere hurry to the press conferences of the international monitoring organizations and headline their assessments. International leaders likewise rely on the monitors’ information to justify their rejection or acceptance of newly elected governments around the world.

    But several factors raise questions about the validity and effectiveness of international election monitoring. Monitoring organizations claim to provide objective assessments. But when more and more organizations join the practice without any uniform standards for assessing...

  10. Appendix A: Data Description
    (pp. 181-194)
  11. Appendix B: Statistical Supplement to Chapter 3
    (pp. 195-196)
  12. Appendix C: Statistical Supplement to Chapter 4
    (pp. 197-198)
  13. Appendix D: Statistical Supplement to Chapter 7
    (pp. 199-210)
    Mark Buntaine
  14. Appendix E: Case Summaries
    (pp. 211-264)
    Kiril Kolev
  15. Notes
    (pp. 265-292)
  16. References
    (pp. 293-320)
  17. Index
    (pp. 321-338)