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Can Courts in Nondemocracies Deter Election Fraud? De Jure Judicial Independence, Political Competition, and Election Integrity

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  18 February 2022

Oklahoma State University, United States
Cole J. Harvey, Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science, Oklahoma State University, United States,


Many nondemocracies hold multiparty elections while also adopting institutions of de jure judicial independence; yet there is debate over how nondemocratic courts can affect election integrity. This paper argues that increased de jure independence creates incentives for opposition recourse to the courts, which reduces election fraud due to greater legal exposure for election-manipulating agents and the ruling party. However, this effect occurs only when competition is low and the ruling party has limited incentive to intervene. These predictions are distinct from those of prior work, and they are supported by an analysis of cross-national election-year data from 1945 to 2014. Preprocessing techniques are used to reduce concerns about endogeneity and confounding. The results show that principal-agent dynamics can occur in manipulated elections even when incumbents remain in office, challenge the centrality of protest risk as a deterrent to manipulation, and offer a framework for predicting when de jure reforms translate to behavioral independence.

Research Article
© The Author(s), 2022. Published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of the American Political Science Association

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