Why elections matter: assessing the quality of governance in emerging democracies

January 2013
An astonishing political transformation has taken place around the world over the past three decades. Today, a majority of countries are ‘electoral democracies’. Even the Middle East, a region that long seemed immune to democratisation, is in the midst of momentous change. In country after country, people have risked their lives to call for free elections, and elections have been held in all but 11 countries since 2000. Clearly, there is a lot more to democracy than elections — but elections are among its most visible elements, and they have become almost universal.

Elections hold tremendous promise to deepen the quality of democratic governance but their benefits are by no means assured. This is why elections should command attention and priority. This ODI page brings together key documents, reports, opinion pieces and research that ODI researchers have developed or been involved with around elections, with regular updates on important electoral themes and ongoing electoral processes worldwide.

Elections in post-conflict states: the best way to legitimacy?

Public event | 2 July 2014 14:00 - 16:00 GMT+01 (BST)
Elections are deemed essential to provide needed legitimacy and to enable citizens to take part in shaping a common future. Yet elections can also be destabilising and act as detonators of (further) violence and conflict if conditions are not right. This...

Fragmented governance and local service delivery in Malawi

Research reports and studies | May 2014 | Tam O’Neil and Diana Cammack with Edge Kanyongolo, Moir Walita Mkandawire, Tuntufye Mwalyambwire, Bryn Welham and Leni Wild
Ahead of local council elections in May 2014, this study helps government and donors to understand how local government and service delivery work and to assess whether the return of local councils is likely to improve their functioning.

Elections and accountability: what role for the media?

Public event | 27 March 2014 16:00 - 18:00 GMT+00

Often referred to as the fourth pillar of power, the media has a crucial role to play in electoral processes. At least in principle, the media fulfils essential functions that are vital to ensure the fairness of electoral processes and strengthen...


Dirty money: breaking the link between organised crime and politics

Public event | 11 December 2013 14:00 - 16:00 GMT+00

Money plays a central role in determining whose voices are heard in the political process. This event will explore the connection between illicit networks, corrupt politicians, electoral cycles and political competition, and how political financing...


Beyond elections: what role for political parties in development?

Public event | 19 November 2013 09:30 - 11:00 GMT+00

Often perceived as “the weakest link” in the democratic process, political parties tend to be among the least trusted organisations in the eyes of the electorate. Yet, it is difficult to imagine a democracy that can function without...


Guinea elections: a watershed for the private sector?

Comment | 27 September 2013 | Vikki Chambers and Alexandra Reza
'Guinea today is in a condition of political stalemate which reflects both the deep-rooted mistrust that exists between the country’s political elites and their debilitating inability to agree on how to consolidate the democratic transition process that began in...
Read and comment

July Podcast: democracy, Mali election, aid and the military

Comment | 24 July 2013 | Presented by Jonathan Tanner and produced by Gail Wilson
This month’s ODI Podcast takes a look at what the current wave of global protest can tell us about democracy and elections, picks apart the rationale for Sunday’s elections in Mali and delves into the debate over whether we should be making more of the aid budget...
Read and comment

The chasm between elections and democracy

Comment | 23 July 2013 | Farzana Nawaz interviews Alina Rocha Menocal
'Elections are the most visible and identifiable element of democracy. However, what we have learned over the years is that, while elections are important, they are far from sufficient to ensure democracy.'
Read and comment

Paraguay: what does Cartes' victory mean?

Comment | 26 April 2013 | Claudia Pompa
'Cartes’ election raises significant concernsa among all Paraguayans who are concerned with politics. Under Cartes we can expect, over the next five years, continuing high levels of inequality in land ownership and social justice and poor or declining quality of...
Read and comment