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Regular version of the site

Electoral Process in Non-Democracies

Academic Year
Instruction in English
ECTS credits
Course type:
Elective course
3 year, 3 module


Shkel, Stanislav

Course Syllabus


The course is devoted to the specifics of electoral processes in non-democratic political regimes. The course first investigates why elections acquired this important place in modern societies and what impact they actually have or lack in the political process. Then we move on to survey all major aspects of election architecture and see what normative dilemmas various issues and solutions raise, and what practical effects they have. We will pay particular attention to the last decades burgeoning literature on elections with some competition but low integrity. While the course’s main goal is to assist evidence-based, normatively informed analytical thinking about institutions, it also introduces a wide range of technical and comparativist knowledge regarding democratic and authoritarian ways of organizing elections, and how the effectiveness of various tools can be undermined in practice by regime opponents. The course also surveys when and why elections have effects that run against their manifest function, i.e. undermine popular sovereignty in democracies, or lead to a defeat of authoritarian governments in non-democratic regimes. The course prepares participants to analyze, discuss and shape electoral institutions in various professional roles in the media, politics, education and civil society.
Learning Objectives

Learning Objectives

  • The main objective of the course is to reveal the functions of elections and the specifics of strategic interactions of the main participants in the electoral process in the conditions of modern autocracies
Expected Learning Outcomes

Expected Learning Outcomes

  • Student is capable of choosing research methods appropriate for resolving the professional tasks
  • Student is capable of retrieving, collecting, processing and analyzing information relevant for achieving goals in the professional field.
  • Student is capable of posing research problems relevant to the study of political phenomena and political processes; setting particular research tasks; and putting together a research design
  • Able to conduct professional activities internationally
Course Contents

Course Contents

  • Introduction to the electoral process in non-democratic political regimes
  • Why autocrats need elections? Theories and explanations
  • Types of autocracies and the electoral process
  • Incumbents and their strategies in the electoral process
  • Institutions and Institutional Engineering in Autocracies
  • Political Machines: Concept and Empirical Examples
  • Opposition: systemic and non-systemic
  • Voters and Electoral Behavior in Nondemocratic Regimes
  • Post-election protests and mass mobilization in autocracies
  • Stunning elections: what, where, when and why?
Assessment Elements

Assessment Elements

  • non-blocking Class attendance, preparation and participation
    Active participation, discussion of presentations
  • non-blocking Essay
    The final work for the course is an essay of about 3000 words in English related to any aspect of the broad theme of the course. It can be an overview of the existing articles on the topic, or an original piece of research. In the latter case, the essay is supposed to include a theoretical section, literature review, hypotheses derived from the theory, some methodological discussion, a model built on one of the cross-country datasets, and a results section. The most important aspects to be graded are the creativity of the research idea, the operationalization, and refinement of hypotheses, proper modeling, and clear understanding of the limits of research. - Late assignments will be graded down. - Plagiarism will result in failure. Papers submitted for other classes cannot be reused.
  • non-blocking Final oral exam
    Final exam is based on brief oral presentation of two exam questions
  • non-blocking Group presentation
    One obligatory presentation on the topic of the class session [project presentation] as a member of a small group. Presentations will be held for about 20 minutes each week. Each student will present at least once (as a member of a small group). Presenters are supposed to have required and supplementary readings for the week covered. Through the discussion and presentation, presenters should demonstrate understanding of all required texts, to include some that are not assigned, and students are supposed to lead the discussion that integrates these into a wider theme. Presenters must use visual presentation as an aid for the others.
Interim Assessment

Interim Assessment

  • 2022/2023 3rd module
    0.25 * Class attendance, preparation and participation + 0.25 * Group presentation + 0.25 * Essay + 0.25 * Final oral exam


Recommended Core Bibliography

  • Boix, C., & Svolik, M. (2009). The Foundations of Limited Authoritarian Government: Institutions and Power-Sharing in Dictatorships. Papers.
  • Brownlee, J. (2007). Authoritarianism in an Age of Democratization. Cambridge University Press.
  • Gandhi, J. (DE-588)138685657, (DE-627)605251576, (DE-576)285538829, aut. (2008). Political institutions under dictatorship Jennifer Gandhi.
  • Greene, K. F. (2007). Why Dominant Parties Lose : Mexico’s Democratization in Comparative Perspective. Cambridge University Press.
  • Magaloni, B. (2006). Voting for Autocracy : Hegemonic Party Survival and Its Demise in Mexico. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&site=eds-live&db=edsebk&AN=254515

Recommended Additional Bibliography

  • Ames, B. (1970). Bases of Support for Mexico’s Dominant Party. American Political Science Review, 01, 153.
  • Cox, G. W., & Katz, J. N. (2002). Elbridge Gerry’s Salamander ; The Electoral Consequences of the Reapportionment Revolution. https://doi.org/10.1017/cbo9780511606212
  • Daniela Donno, I Thank Bruce Russett, Susan Stokes, Nikolay Marinov, Seok-ju Cho, & Dean Lacy. (n.d.). 1 Partners in Defending Democracy: Regional Intergovernmental Organizations And Opposition Mobilization after Flawed Elections.
  • Jennifer Gandhi, & Adam Przeworski. (2006). Cooperation, cooptation, and rebellion under dictatorships.” Economics and Politics 18(1):1–26.
  • Lehoucq, F. (2003). ELECTORAL FRAUD: Causes, Types, and Consequences. Annual Review of Political Science, 6(1), 233–256. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev.polisci.6.121901.085655
  • Lindberg, S. I. (2006). Democracy and Elections in Africa. Johns Hopkins University Press.
  • Magaloni, B., Estévez, F., & Diaz-Cayeros, A. (2002). The erosion of one-party rule: Clientelism, portfolio diversification and electoral strategy. Conference Papers —— American Political Science Association, 1–43.
  • Marc Morjé Howard, & Philip G. Roessler. (2006). Liberalizing Electoral Outcomes in Competitive Authoritarian Regimes. American Journal of Political Science, (2), 365. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1540-5907.2006.00189.x
  • STOKES, S. C. (2005). Perverse Accountability: A Formal Model of Machine Politics with Evidence from Argentina. https://doi.org/10.1017/s0003055405051683
  • Tucker, J. A. (2007). Enough! Electoral Fraud, Collective Action Problems, and Post-Communist Colored Revolutions. https://doi.org/10.1017/s1537592707071538