Darren Whiteside / Reuters

What to Know

The world is in the midst of a democratic recession. That’s the conclusion of the political scientists Nic Cheeseman and Brian Klaas in their book, How to Rig an Election. Antidemocratic leaders have developed a toolkit of election-rigging practices they can use to manipulate votes, which allows them to hold elections—but keep their office no matter what. That practice is essential to understanding the increasingly uncompetitive nature of so much of politics worldwide, even in democracies.

Some of those deceptive strategies came into sharper focus this week. Two countries, Cambodia and Zimbabwe, held elections that didn’t seem very free or fair. The methods used in those countries—and, to some extent, even in the United States—illustrate the art of election rigging. Here are three essential lessons about how the powerful tilt the playing field in their favor.

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