Competitive elections are good for democracy – just not every democracy

The 2018 U.S. midterm elections were fierce, expensive and full of upsets, with political newcomers ousting long-tenured incumbents and Democrats unseating Republicans to retake the House of Representatives.

That makes them an exemplary democratic exercise from a political science standpoint: American voters booted the congressional representatives who they believed did not fight for their interests.

That’s exactly what elections are meant to do: Hold politicians accountable.

But it doesn’t work that way everywhere. In younger democracies, our research shows, a superheated campaign with numerous candidates may actually impede democracy.

Photo: Marco Dormino/UN