Here’s How the 2020 U.S. Elections Resemble Those of Fragile Democracies

Here’s How the 2020 U.S. Elections Resemble Those of Fragile Democracies

With an incumbent president attacking the electoral process as rigged and refusing to commit to accepting the results, the Nov. 3 U.S. elections increasingly resemble those in struggling democracies and autocratic countries. I speak from experience, having led or managed some 40 election observation efforts in 22 countries over more than 30 years.

As the co-founder and president of Democracy International, I now see the United States exhibiting many of the same kinds of problems with elections that we in the international election monitoring community have long criticized in countries where democracy is less established. In genuine, established democracies, political competitors generally do not attack the rules or the fairness of the process, accuse the opposing candidate or the election authorities of cheating, intimidate voters, or threaten them with violence. In less than fully democratic countries, on the other hand, complaints about fraud and fairness are routine, and violence—or the threat of it—is often involved. This tends to undermine public confidence in the elections and in democracy itself.