GV315      Half Unit
Voting and Elections in Developing Democracies

This information is for the 2022/23 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Ryan Jablonski


This course is available on the BA in Social Anthropology, BSc in History and Politics, BSc in Philosophy, Politics and Economics, BSc in Politics, BSc in Politics and Data Science, BSc in Politics and Economics, BSc in Politics and History, BSc in Politics and International Relations, BSc in Politics and Philosophy and BSc in Social Anthropology. 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 to 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 the Lent Term. 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.  Students are also expected to participate in a policy simulation, and must prepare one written policy statement in 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 (80%, 4000 words) in the ST.
Presentation (20%) in the LT.

Student performance results

(2019/20 - 2021/22 combined)

Classification % of students
First 11.9
2:1 72.9
2:2 13.6
Third 0
Fail 1.7

Key facts

Department: Government

Total students 2021/22: 24

Average class size 2021/22: 12

Capped 2021/22: Yes (30)

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Course selection videos

Some departments have produced short videos to introduce their courses. Please refer to the course selection videos index page for further information.

Personal development skills

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