When and Where do Elections Matter? A Global Test of the Democratization by Elections Hypothesis, 1900-2012
To date studies assessing the democratizing effects of elections have produced mixed results. While findings suggest that successive uninterrupted election cycles in a global sample (Teorell and Hadenius 2009) and within sub-Saharan Africa (Lindberg 2006, 2009) have a robust positive impact on democratization, tests in other regions have been less encouraging. In particular, negative empirical findings in Latin America (McCoy and Hartlyn 2009) and Postcommunist Europe (Kaya and Bernhard 2013) call into question whether the democratizing effect of elections is isolated to the sub-Saharan region. In addition, the hypothesis has been subject to conceptual criticism (Lust-Okar 2009). This paper poses a comprehensive and global set of tests on the democratizing effect of elections, assessing the scope of the argument both geographically and temporally. We test whether elections have a democratizing effect in specific regions, in specific time periods, and globally. In particular we assess whether the effects are largely confined to Africa, during the third wave, or if this is a more general phenomenon. We find consistent support that the reiteration of contested multiparty elections leads to the improvement of rule of law and the quality of civil rights protections.