Joshua Tucker: paper on electoral fraud in post-communist nations

Joshua Tucker has an interesting paper now under review, “Enough! Electoral Fraud, Collective Action Problems, and the “2nd Wave” of Post-Communist Democratic Revolutions.” Tucker is a professor in NYU’s politics department, studying politics and elections primarily in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union.

Here’s the abstract of Tucker’s paper from his website:

Abstract: In many ways, the “2nd wave” of post-communist electoral revolutions came as a surprise to much of the political science community. In particular, theories stressing cultural or historical prerequisites for democratization may have a difficult time accounting for the spread of successful pro-democracy movements to countries such as Serbia, Georgia, Ukraine, and Kyrgyzstan. As scholars, journalists, and policy makers have struggled to make sense of these events, a variety of interpretations have been proposed, including geo-strategic politics, CIA organized plots, and elite-based modular learning. In this paper, I suggest that political science theory can offer another interpretation of these events: electoral fraud as a powerful tool to solve the collective action problem faced by societies struggling with corruption. If we accept this framework, then it leads to a number of important conclusions about how we might want to interpret the 2nd wave of post-communist electoral revolutions, as well as the long term viability of the so-called “delegative democracies” or “unconsolidated authoritarian regimes” It also suggests an interesting set of future research questions. The essay concludes with some brief observations about the importance of elections in our thinking about both democracy and democratization.

One thing that I found to be very helpful in this paper is Tucker’s definition of election fraud (page 5 of his paper):

Second, the term electoral fraud is intended to refer to situations in which electoral results were knowingly tampered with in an effort to advantage one candidate (or set of candidates) over another. One can conceive of two different types of fraud: minor electoral fraud, where results were tampered with but in which the tampering is perceived to have had little effect on the overall outcome of the election, or major electoral fraud, cases in which electoral fraud is suspected to have influenced the overall outcome of an election. In the context of the colored revolutions, this would imply a belief that either a different candidate would have been elected president or a different party would have controlled the parliament if the fraud had not occurred; and indeed, all four colored revolutions featured instances of what I have labeled major electoral fraud. The ideas contained in the remainder of this essay focus on circumstances following this kind of major electoral fraud. Put another way, the arguments that follow assume that if the fraud is corrected, there is a strong chance that a different group of political forces would come to power.

This is an interesting essay, focused on how electoral fraud can be used as a tool to stimulate collective action. Well worth a read, for those interested in electoral fraud, collective action, social protest and political participation.

Thanks to Susan Hyde for sending along the link to this paper!