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Protesting the contest : election boycotts around the world, 1990-2002


Why do political parties boycott elections and what do election boycotts mean for democracy in developing countries? To answer these questions, I differentiate between major and minor boycotts to study the causes and consequences of those boycotts most likely to affect democratization. Using an original data set, I find distinct causes for each type of boycott. While major boycotts are motivated by electoral unfairness and a strong opposition, minor boycotts seek to obtain international attention for particularistic interests, without sacrificing monetary gain. In addition to a distinction between types of boycott, an original dataset, and the most systematic examination of election boycott causes to date, this dissertation also contributes the first study of the effects of election boycotts. I find that major boycotts have consequences both for the elections in which they occur and for democracy in developing countries more generally. With respect to boycotted elections, this study finds a distinction between those types of boycotts that are peaceful and those that engage in violence as part of their boycott campaign. Where the implications for democracy are concerned, I find that major boycotts stimulate political reform and encourage the future involvement of international election observers. These findings suggest that election boycotts do not represent death throes, but rather the birth pangs of democracy

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