Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Saturday, November 07, 2015

Meaningless elections?

Comparative politics students should be able to come up with a couple answers to this article's title question before they read the article.

Myanmar votes on Sunday. Why do authoritarian governments even hold elections?
On Sunday [Nov. 8], Myanmar will conduct general elections for its regional and state assemblies, and the lower and upper houses of the national parliament…

Widespread manipulation and misconduct has marred the run-up to the election…

Such problems are hardly surprising. They speak to how authoritarian elections are not designed to aid the selection of political representatives in the democratic way we understand.

Why do authoritarian regimes bother with elections?
  • To collect information…
  • To pursue legitimacy…
  • To manage political elites…
  • To sustain neopatrimonialism…

While only a handful of authoritarian regimes do not hold elections, major challenges remain for those that do. For dictators, the crux of the issue is whether these four benefits outweigh five underlying costs. This includes how elections are:
  • Ideologically objectionable…
  • Politically risky…
  • Propagandistically ineffective…
  • Strategically superfluous…
  • Unnecessarily demanding…
Myanmar’s past elections have included many of the above attributes…

The 1990 election, however, backfired on the ruling junta…

[W]hy is Thein Sein holding the current election? One reason is domestic legitimacy… By retaining power through the “will of the people”, the USDP [his party] can then position itself as the only political actor capable of nurturing “democracy”…

Teaching Comparative blog entries are indexed. Use the search box to look for country names or concept labels attached to each entry.

Just The Facts! 2nd edition is a concise guide to concepts, terminology, and examples that will appear on May's exam.


Just The Facts! is available. Order HERE.

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What You Need to Know 7th edition is ready to help.


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What You Need to Know: Teaching Tools, the original version and v2.0 are available to help curriculum planning.











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