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United Nations electoral assistance: More than a fig leaf?

Journal article
Authors Anna Lührmann
Published in International Political Science Review
Volume 40
Issue 2
Pages 181-196
ISSN 01925121
Publication year 2019
Published at Department of Political Science
V-Dem Institute
Pages 181-196
Language en
Keywords democracy aid, Elections, electoral assistance, electoral integrity, Libya, Nigeria, Sudan, United Nations
Subject categories Political Science


© The Author(s) 2018. Between 2007 and 2014 the United Nations (UN) assisted more than one-third of all national elections worldwide. Its experts routinely provide substantial technical advice on election management, logistical support such as the procurement of ballot papers and financial assistance. However, it remains doubtful if, and under which conditions, such assistance contributes to free and fair elections or has a positive long-term impact on democratization. This study assesses the impact of UN electoral assistance (UNEA) in Sudan, Nigeria and Libya. It finds that such assistance contributed to election quality in the presence of regime elites prioritizing electoral credibility in Nigeria (2011) and Libya (2012). In Nigeria, it seems plausible that UNEA had a medium-term impact on democratization. However, if regime elites undermine electoral freedom and fairness – as in Sudan (2010) – such positive effects are unlikely. Furthermore, in such contexts, the involvement of the UN may legitimize authoritarian practices.

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