How to Rig an Election
“The greatest political paradox of our time is this: there are more elections than ever before, and yet the world is becoming less democratic.”
With this baffling contradiction in view, How to Rig an Election aims to bring us the plausible truth – elections are being used by despots, dictators and counterfeit democrats to keep a grip on power and legitimate their political absolutism.
This seems to me an essential issue for the contemporary political thought, and although not new, still a neglected and overlooked one.
Elections are the very substrate of a participatory democracy and the very means by which people can make their voices heard, their will respected and their power exercised. They are also the regulating mechanism by which leaders and representatives are kept on a sound track, fulfilling their campaign promises, protecting civil and human rights, implementing and developing redistributive policies and public services, practicing good governance. Through good quality, competitive elections bad leaders and representatives can be kicked out and better ones kicked in.
If you subvert, if you rig elections, you are usurping people’s power, you are undermining their freedom of choice and supressing their participation. Therefore, election rigging is theft, it is crime, it is about attempting against the nation.
Thieves, criminals act on behalf of themselves, against the common good and well being; under the rule of law they are prosecuted, fairly judged, convicted, and in the case of politicians, they should also be removed from office and precluded from taking part in the political public life of their countries – that’s how you prevent similar crimes and misdeeds, that’s how you give room to a real participatory democracy, that’s how you empower the people, promote active citizenship and give the example for future generations.
This book is about thefts and thieves, about the countless strategies and tactics they have deployed to steal power, rights and freedom from you; about how these thugs have systematically avoided accountability and got away with it, right under your nose, in broad daylight.
The stories it reveals are bizarre, frightening, veridical. They become the background against which the authors try to throw some light on the shadows of the human insatiable hunger and thirst for power. Cases, reports and interviews, oftenly first-hand accounts from their own field research and work in different parts of the world, framed into palatable knowledge. You need to know how the wrong has been done in order to fix it and combat more wrongdoing.
They serve as a cry for change, reminding us that democratization and democratic consolidation can only happen in a scenario where strong and independent political bodies and institutions, a competitive multiparty system, and the acting of the organized civil society are supported by educated, conscious voters, under the attentive eyes of committed domestic and international electoral observers.
This review will not make use of excerpts from the book, because I could not comment them better than Nic and Brian themselves. They have studied authoritarianism, election rigging and the threats to the democratic process for years and they did succeed in narrating and translating them for you. This book was written by high quality scholars who unloaded their academic pomp and technicalities to tell you stories – the stories of how you have been tricked, duped, misled.
Wouldn’t you like to know?
Every time I start a review, I ask myself what is lacking to be said. Here, my role is to show in a simple and short way what you have lost from not being aware. You have lost power, freedom, autonomy, wealth. This is too much to be handed over, specially to thieves and thugs.
This book is more than about election rigging, more than about democracy. This book is about your right to self-determination and how to defend it and prevent it from being snatched out of your hands.
1- How to Rig an Election – Nic Cheeseman & Brian Klaas – Yale University Press, kindle edition (2018).
2- How to Rig an Election – Nic Cheeseman & Brian Klaas – Yale University Press, paperback edition (2019).
Nic Cheeseman is a British political scientist, professor of democracy at the University of Birmingham. His work is focused on democracy, elections and development, having conducted fieldwork in a range of African countries. He is the writer and editor of Democracy in Africa: Successes, Failures and the Struggle for Political Reform (2015) and Institutions and Democracy in Africa: How the Rules of the Game Shape Political Developments (2017), respectively. He is also the founding editor of the Oxford Encyclopaedia of African Politics and the website Democracy in Africa (DIA) – democracyinafrica.org
Brian Klaas is an American political scientist, associate professor in global politics at University College London and a Washington Post columnist. His work is focused on democracy and authoritarianism. He is the writer of The Despot’s Accomplice: How the West is Aiding and Abetting the Decline of Democracy (2016) and The Despot’s Apprentice: Donald Trump’s Attack on Democracy (2017). He is also the creator and host of Power Corrupts Podcast @PowrCorrupts, Bronze awarded as the “Smartest Podcast of 2020” by the British Podcast Award.