The Democratic party performed about as well as expected in the midterm elections, perhaps restoring confidence to the electoral prediction industry. Though the success of the Democratic party in the House of Representatives can be taken as a sign that Americans are rejecting some of the more authoritarian aspects of President Donald Trump’s rhetoric, the conduct of candidates’ during the campaign and after the election should leave (small-d) democrats pessimistic. The Democratic party’s new majority in the House will place a check on President Donald Trump’s power, but the 2018 midterms served to highlight the profound problems of American democracy.
Election administration in America is governed not by one singular body, as is typical in almost every country around the world, but by nearly 10,000 local jurisdictions, each with their own rules and regulations. Local elections are often underfunded and rely on volunteer poll workers who often receive minimal training on complex election procedures. Assessments of electoral administration quality are largely based off election administrators themselves or anecdotal observation efforts.
Therefore, when allegations of election fraud surfaced in the aftermath of the recent special elections in Alabama, the only recourse available to determine whether such claims were justified was to ask the administrators themselves.
Mahathir Mohamad, George Wallace, and the 2018 Malaysian election.
Pictured: Dr. Mahathir Mohamad (center), the once-and-future Malaysian Prime Minister greets protestors at an anti-corruption rally in 2016. Photo credit: Reuters.
By Grayson Lewis
Almost no one predicted the 2018 Malaysian election to turn out the way it did. Before the polls closed on the evening of May 9th, the nation’s quasi-authoritarian hybrid regime was ready to almost reflexively claim another victory for its conservative, Malay-chauvinistmandate. This dominant alliance of ethnically-based political parties that had governed the Southeast Asian nation for three generations kept its vice grip on power through some of the most effective methods available: patronage, bribery, media control, and even occasional violence. Much like Mexico in 2000, many knew that the incumbent regime was in for the toughest election it had yet faced, yet practically every clear-eyed observer was sure that the government would weather the storm as it always had done. When it became evident in the early hours of May 10th that the old order had crumbled at the ballot-box overnight, hardly anyone in Malaysia, not the government, the newly elected opposition, or any citizen who had cast a vote truly fathomed the extent of the democratic revolution they had suddenly witnessed in a mere 24 hours.
African states have been struggling to democratize for decades, and Zimbabwe was no exception. Only a quarter of African states in 2012 have democratized, while 43% were autocracy, and the rest were hybrid regimes. Among multiple underlying reasons for failure to democratize was the absence of free and fair election, which reflects the principle of democracy by allowing legitimate transfer of authority and regime change. However, Zimbabwe has not seen transfer of power for more than thirty years – allowing competitive authoritarianism to thrive – due to the manipulation of election that imposed great obstacles to conducting a democratic election. Emmerson Mnangagwa, Zimbabwe’s new President, must understand this fundamental aspect of democratic society, and thereby, end his predecessor’s competitive authoritarianism and political violence.
Today, Sierra Leoneans headed to the polls for the fifth time since the country returned to multiparty elections in the 1990s. The incumbent, Ernest Bai Koroma, of the All People’s Congress (APC) is constitutionally barred from running for a third term, so one way or another the country is about to get a new president.
The optics were sub-optimal for British Prime Minister Theresa May as she took to the podium in front of Number 10 Downing Street on a characteristically chilly and rainy London April morning. The wind tossed up her hitherto immaculate bob-cut hair, as passing cars honked loudly over her speech. More than the weather however, it was the content of May’s announcement that caught the attention of a sleepy British public. May confidently, yet very unexpectedly, announced her cabinet’s push for a snap election, to take place in less than two months’ time. This meant that -despite her recent stance up to that point that her government wasn’t seeking to do so- May was intending for British voters nationwide to return to the polls a whole three years ahead of schedule. For many observers who weren’t familiar with British politics, this begged a simple question: Why?