Yesterday, Vladimir Putin was elected, in a widely-criticized vote, to another term as Russia’s president. Election observers said the voting process was rife with fraud and ballot-stuffing, but they also criticized the run-up to Election Day, alleging that Putin had manipulated the campaign by using the government to boost his own prospects. Are Russia’s rigged elections part of a worldwide trend away from electoral democracy?
According to reports from Freedom House, the last few years have seen both gains and setbacks for the cause of electoral freedom. The organization’s 2011 report on “Countries at the Crossroads” surveyed 35 countries comprising a “diverse selection of middle- and low-performing states, ranging from abysmal dictatorships like Eritrea and Libya to established democracies like Italy and Greece.” It found that 17 of the 35 countries had registered declines in the “free and fair electoral laws and elections” category. But the news wasn’t all bad: According to the 2012 Freedom in the World report, there were electoral improvements not only in Arab Spring countries like Egypt and Tunisia, but also in countries like Singapore. Moreover, “three countries achieved electoral democracy status due to elections that were widely regarded as improvements: Niger, Thailand, and Tunisia.”