The Inequality of Fraud. Exploring the effect of societal inequality on electoral misconduct.
The relationship between inequlity and democracy has been a subject to many academic studies. Yet no rigorous explanation has been offered about the connection between them. The present thesis engages in this debate by analyzing the effect of societal inequality on the democratic quality of elections. The hypothesis being tested is that the more the resources in society are unequally distributed, the greater the incentives and opportunities for the incumbent are to use illicit tactics to retain a privileged position. At the same time marginalized groups will be more willing to break the democratic norms in order to defend their rights better and access more power. The new V-Dem data allows for the first time to test these arguments in a comprehensive comparative analysis covering 113 years of history for 139 countries. Using a time-series cross-sectional regression model, the study tests whether and how social, economic and/or political inequality affects the level of electoral misconduct. One contribution of this study is that a new measure for electoral fraud is proposed that encompasses all legal and illegal tactics used by competitors to distort the electoral outcome. The empirical findings corroborate that on average inequality based on social group differences is associated with electoral misconduct. The frequency of fraud is higher when the underlying social differences are translated into the political life or affect civil liberties access.