This panel investigates the changing face of electoral malpractice and considers the drivers of electoral manipulation. It asks how election rigging is changing over time and in response to new technologies, and whether citizens resist such strategies or, in some cases, demand them.
Historically, studies of election rigging in Africa have tended to focus on repression, vote buying and ballot box stuffing. At the same time, malpractice has generally been seen as a top-down process, the work of candidates seeking power. More recently, increasing attention has been devoted to other strategies such as gerrymandering, the manipulation of electoral commissions, and the role of local party organization, although the emphasis on elite strategies has remained. This panel seeks to contribute to this literature in two ways. On the one hand, it will explore the changing shape of malpractice. As the technologies available to election organizers and election monitors have evolved, so have the strategies of rigging: attempts to hack election technology, undermining the capacity of opposition parties to put together effective election petitions, and paying the election monitors of rival parties to turn a blind eye to vote inflation. On the other hand, it will look again at the drivers of electoral manipulation. Political leaders are often accused of being the root cause of vote-buying, multiple voting, or intimidation. Yet they counter that they are simply responding to the public demand for gifts, or that communities themselves mobilise in pursuit of collective political choices. This raises a central question: what are popular ideas of acceptable, or even expected, electoral behaviour? How and why do these vary between communities, and over time? We invite submissions interested in these questions from anthropologists, historians, and political scientists from different methodological backgrounds.