Presentation Title

Free and Fair? Public Perceptions of Recent African Elections

Presentation Type

Oral Presentation

Keywords

elections, international election monitoring, public perceptions, Kenya, opposition

Department

Political Science

Major

Political Science

Abstract

Elections in Africa continue to be marred by electoral fraud and violence. Some citizens have trust in the integrity of their electoral process, while others claim the system is rigged. In the past thirty years, though, the international community has invested heavily in the deployment of international election monitors, who observe elections to identify and deter electoral fraud. But recent scholarship suggests a general unwillingness of monitors to explicitly speak out against fraudulent elections. Additionally, the findings of observers often contrast to opposition groups’ claims that certain elections were corrupt. This can lead to general public confusion about the true fairness of an election. This paper addresses two main questions. Firstly, during recent African elections, what factors were important in shaping citizens’ perceptions of the freeness and fairness of their election? Secondly, during the 2017 Kenyan presidential election, how did international monitors and opposition groups contribute to shaping these perceptions? To answer the first question, I use a 2016 survey administered in 34 African countries to conduct a linear regression to measure the effects of several variables on nationwide perceptions of electoral fairness. The 34 elections took place between 2009-2015. To answer the second question, I analyze multiple sources to understand the messages of the opposition group and the Carter Center, a prominent international election monitoring organization based in the U.S. The linear regression shows that when a country’s citizens report of many fair vote counts in the past, the recent election in that country is significantly more likely to be perceived as free and fair, as opposed to not free and fair. In the case study, I find that international monitoring organizations and opposition groups spoke publicly about similar themes, but had different messages, rhetorical styles, and means of communication. Findings from both parts of the study have implications for international election monitoring, public opinion, and democratization.

Faculty Mentor

Robert E. Williams, Jr.

Funding Source or Research Program

Political Science Honors Program

Presentation Session

Session B

Location

BPC 189

Start Date

23-3-2018 4:15 PM

End Date

23-3-2018 4:30 PM

This document is currently not available here.

Share

COinS
 
Mar 23rd, 4:15 PM Mar 23rd, 4:30 PM

Free and Fair? Public Perceptions of Recent African Elections

BPC 189

Elections in Africa continue to be marred by electoral fraud and violence. Some citizens have trust in the integrity of their electoral process, while others claim the system is rigged. In the past thirty years, though, the international community has invested heavily in the deployment of international election monitors, who observe elections to identify and deter electoral fraud. But recent scholarship suggests a general unwillingness of monitors to explicitly speak out against fraudulent elections. Additionally, the findings of observers often contrast to opposition groups’ claims that certain elections were corrupt. This can lead to general public confusion about the true fairness of an election. This paper addresses two main questions. Firstly, during recent African elections, what factors were important in shaping citizens’ perceptions of the freeness and fairness of their election? Secondly, during the 2017 Kenyan presidential election, how did international monitors and opposition groups contribute to shaping these perceptions? To answer the first question, I use a 2016 survey administered in 34 African countries to conduct a linear regression to measure the effects of several variables on nationwide perceptions of electoral fairness. The 34 elections took place between 2009-2015. To answer the second question, I analyze multiple sources to understand the messages of the opposition group and the Carter Center, a prominent international election monitoring organization based in the U.S. The linear regression shows that when a country’s citizens report of many fair vote counts in the past, the recent election in that country is significantly more likely to be perceived as free and fair, as opposed to not free and fair. In the case study, I find that international monitoring organizations and opposition groups spoke publicly about similar themes, but had different messages, rhetorical styles, and means of communication. Findings from both parts of the study have implications for international election monitoring, public opinion, and democratization.