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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Elections and Government Legitimacy in Afghanistan


International development agencies invest heavily in institution building in fragile states, including expensive interventions to support democratic elections. Yet little evidence exists on whether elections enhance the domestic legitimacy of governments. Using the random assignment of an innovative election fraudreducing intervention in Afghanistan, we find that decreasing electoral misconduct improves multiple survey measures of attitudes toward government,

including: (1) whether Afghanistan is a democracy; (2) whether the police should resolve disputes; (3) whether members of parliament provide services; and (4) willingness to report insurgent behavior to security forces. Moreover, these effects are strongest within the subsample of respondents who were not aware of the fairness-enhancing treatment, leading us to conclude that legitimacy was increased by perceptions of electoral fairness and efficacy.

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