Elections as Levers of Democracy: A Global Inquiry
In this paper we purport to test the proposition that elections have a democratizing effect, drawing on cross-sectional time-series data at best covering a global sample of 193 countries from 1919 to 2004. Two versions of this proposition are tested: one with respect to current effects, another with respect to cumulative effects. The first maintains that the holding of an election would yield democratizing gains more or less immediately, either in the time period following shortly after the election or in the non-electoral spheres of society. The second version instead holds that the historical experience with a prolonged series of elections in the end would yield a democratizing effect. In our tests, we find support for both proposals⎯at least for certain ways of measuring the effects in question. Current effects manifest themselves primarily in the immediate aftermath of multiparty elections. We can also observe improvements in the no-electoral realm (with respect to civil liberties), but this effect is marred with uncertainty regarding the validity of the data at hand. As for the cumulative proposal, we conclude that the number of multiparty—or, even more strongly, free and fair—elections, which a country has experienced, has democratic influence, primarily on the non-electoral sphere of democracy. At the same time, the effect is not very strong and the relative influence of every new election is declining.
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