The cost of exposing cheating
This article investigates the relationship between international election observation, election fraud, and post-election violence. While international electoral missions could in principle mitigate the potential for violence by deterring election fraud, the ability of international observers to detect manipulation may in fact induce violent uprisings. Serious irregularities documented by international observers provide credible information on election quality, which draws attention to election outcomes and alleviates coordination problems faced by opposition parties and society. When elections are manipulated to deny citizens an opportunity for peaceful contestation and international observers publicize such manipulation, violent interactions between incumbents, opposition parties, and citizens can ensue. Consequently, the author expects that fraudulent elections monitored by international organizations will have an increased potential for subsequent violence. This expectation is evaluated empirically in an analysis of post-election conflict events for African elections in the 1997â€“2009 period. Using original data on electoral manipulation and reputable international election observation missions, findings show that the presence of election fraud and international observers increases the likelihood of post-election violence. Matching methods are employed to account for the possibility that international observersâ€™ decisions to monitor elections are endogenous to the occurrence of violence in the electoral process. Results for matched samples confirm the findings in the unmatched sample. A variety of robustness tests show that the results are not influenced by the operationalization of independent variables and influential observations.
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