GV315      Half Unit
Voting and Elections in Developing Democracies

This information is for the 2020/21 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Ryan Jablonski


This course is available on the BSc in Government, BSc in Government and Economics, BSc in Government and History, BSc in Philosophy, Politics and Economics, BSc in Politics, BSc in Politics and Economics, BSc in Politics and History, BSc in Politics and International Relations and BSc in Politics and Philosophy. This course is not available as an outside option nor to General Course students.

The course is capped at two groups.


Government students should have completed GV101 Introduction to Political Science or equivalent.

Course content

Most governments in the developing world have adopted electoral institutions, many in the last few decades. However, these institutions vary considerably in their ability hold politicians accountable. Emergent democracies are frequently plagued by violence, fraud, corruption, weak accountability, and clientelism. This seminar is a discussion of the nature of electoral institutions in developing democracies, with a particular focus on the causes and consequences of these ills. Among other things, we will seek answers to the following questions: Why do governments adopt electoral institutions, but then fail to permit free and fair voting? When and why do governments use fraud and violence to win elections? What has been the impact of development aid, election monitoring and democracy assistance on elections and democratization? To answer these questions we will draw on an emerging political science literature on these issues, as well as several case studies. Students are expected to be active participants in this course, and will participate in several class debates and writing exercises.


This course is delivered through a combination of classes and lectures totalling a minimum of 25 hours in Lent Term. Some or all of this teaching will be delivered through a combination of online and on-campus lectures and classes. There will be a Reading Week in Week 6 of LT.

Formative coursework

Students will be expected to produce 1 essay of 1,000 words in the LT.

Indicative reading

Stokes, Susan C., et al. Brokers, Voters, and Clientelism: the puzzle of distributive politics. Cambridge University Press, 2013.

Wantchekon, Leonard. 2003. “Clientelism and Voting Behavior: Evidence from a Field Experiment in Benin.” World Politics 55, no. 3: 399-422.

Zakaria, F. 1997. The Rise of Illiberal Democracy. Foreign Affairs 76: 22-43.

Bratton, Michael, and Nicholas Van de Walle. Democratic experiments in Africa: Regime transitions in comparative perspective. Cambridge University Press, 1997.

Hafner-Burton, Emilie M., Susan D. Hyde, and Ryan S. Jablonski. "When Do Governments Resort to Election Violence?" British Journal of Political Science 44.01 (2014): 149-179.

Weitz-Shapiro, Rebecca. "What wins votes: Why some politicians opt out of clientelism." American Journal of Political Science 56.3 (2012): 568-583.


Essay (90%, 4000 words) in the ST.
Presentation (10%) in the LT.

Important information in response to COVID-19

Please note that during 2020/21 academic year some variation to teaching and learning activities may be required to respond to changes in public health advice and/or to account for the situation of students in attendance on campus and those studying online during the early part of the academic year. For assessment, this may involve changes to mode of delivery and/or the format or weighting of assessments. Changes will only be made if required and students will be notified about any changes to teaching or assessment plans at the earliest opportunity.

Key facts

Department: Government

Total students 2019/20: 15

Average class size 2019/20: 8

Capped 2019/20: Yes (30)

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Self-management
  • Team working
  • Problem solving
  • Communication