The world’s autocrats seem more willing to dispense with the appearance of honest elections.
In less than two weeks, Venezuela will conduct the latest in a series of sham voting exercises, this time to hand a new mandate to President Nicolás Maduro. Over the past two months, similar pseudo-elections were held in Russia, Azerbaijan, and Egypt. In each case the outcome was determined far in advance, with nothing left to chance. And in each case, the official result was a massive win for the incumbent strongman: over 76 percent for Russia’s Vladimir Putin, 86 percent for Azerbaijan’s Ilham Aliyev, and a whopping 97 percent for Egypt’s Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.
Then there is Hungary, where Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s Fidesz party achieved another parliamentary supermajority with a little over 50 percent of the vote. Election monitors described a ruling system that features highly partisan control over the economy, media, judiciary, and electoral commission, and a governing clique that brazenly mobilized state resources to ensure a decisive victory for Fidesz.
Freedom House’s annual Freedom in the World report has registered an overall decline for global democracy in each of the past 12 years, and so far, the evidence suggests that 2018 will be no better and very possibly worse. It was not so long ago that countries like Russia and Egypt permitted a semblance of competition and open debate in their elections. Increasingly, however, modern autocrats are abandoning efforts to show that their polls meet minimal standards for legitimacy.
Elections are the most fundamental institution of democracy,…