Elections and Democracy

Yes it's true, elections alone don't make a democracy. So why does western policy often seem myopically focused on elections? I used to wonder about this until I heard a wise man (but I can't quite remember who, I think he worked at Carnegie, though) explain that the international community tends to overemphasize this point because that's what we know how to do. If a government sincerely wants to run a free and fair election, we can help make that happen. We can give political parties advice about how to organize. We can monitor elections and have a pretty good system for assessing them. When it comes to elections, we know what we're doing.

The rest . . . well, we know that the rest is very important. The rule of law, in particular, is crucial. But while have have a lot of knowledge about, say, the rule of law we don't have much know-how about instilling it elsewhere. So you see a lot of emphasis on elections.

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Matthew Yglesias is a former writer and editor at The Atlantic.

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