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Elections in Emerging Democracies



Elections in emerging democracies: Elections have spread to most corners of the globe, including to places that are poor, ethnically divided, non-western and have long histories of authoritarian rule. Competitive elections in these emerging democracies often do not resemble elections in old western democracies. Parties and party systems are weak; incumbents are sometimes omnipotent, oppositions divided; fraud, violence and clientelism are often part of the political equation; voters are relatively uninformed and rely on various shortcuts to assess the credibility of political candidates; as a result, parties more often court voters on the basis of atavistic attachments, personality or patronage than on the basis of programmatic differences or performance. This course introduces students to electoral processes in developing countries, and considers how they compare to elections in western democracies. How do elections concretely work in countries with high levels of poverty, conflict, inequality, ethnic diversity and/or illiteracy? How do these elections diverge from western ideals and western realities? Drawing on the experience of countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America, the class will compare and discuss the way electoral democracy is practiced in “most of the world”. We explore a number of themes, including partisanship, clientelism/patronage, fraud, violence, accountability, and ethnic voting.

Course Objectives

Objective1: The course provides students with exposure to salient challenges currently faced by the world's democracies. Upon completion of this course, students should thus be more aware of the ground reality of "democracy" in most of the world. This entails an ability to compare the current empirical reality of democracy in Asia, Africa, and Latin America to classical Western democratic ideals, and in turn, to the challenges faced by the old democracies in Western Europe and North America.
Objective 2: Students are exposed to cutting-edge empirical research in political science and political economy on the origins, causes, and consequences of each of the weekly themes. The course should thus help students become acquainted with a diversity of research strategies used in comparative politics and grow into critical consumers of empirical research on these questions.

Mode of Instruction

The class will be taught in seminar form, i.e. as a combination of lectures and class discussions. A different topic will be considered each week. In each case I will provide an outlook of the question at hand that week, before we discuss readings.

There is no textbook for this class, so the lectures are an essential component of the class experience. While I will be lecturing for part of the class, participation is essential. Interruptions, questions and discussions should and will be frequent.

The readings assigned in this class are best thought of as illustrations or extensions of the lectures. While I will explicitly refer to most readings during class, I may on occasion let you connect the readings to the main thread developed during lectures on your own (unless obviously there are questions). This obviously does not mean that those readings are less important or less valuable. Your ability to process, analyze and connect readings – regardless of the time we actually spend on these articles in class – is as important as lectures in order to follow the pace of the class.

Reading List

Books and articles; a detailed reading list will be made available on blackboard. There is no handbook for this course.

Assessment Method

A combination of individual written work, in-class participation and a presentation.

Entry Requirements

This course has no formal entry requirements.

Successful completion of, or an interest in) “Statistiek” (or an equivalent course on Empirical Methods for Political Scientists), “Rationele Keuzetheorie” (or an equivalent Introduction to Rational Choice Theory) and “Economie voor Politicologen” (or an equivalent Introduction to Economics for Political Scientists course) will be helpful.


See preliminary info

This course is earmarked for the specialization NECD, IP and PPD