Accepted Paper:

Choosing from the 'menu of manipulation': evidence from Ghana  

Author:

Halfdan Lynge-Mangueira (University of Oxford)

Paper short abstract:

How do African politicians choose from the menu of manipulation? This paper explores the subnational patterns of electoral manipulation in Ghana. It argues that different types of electoral manipulation have different cost-benefit compositions, allowing politicians to tailor their strategies.

Paper long abstract:

When do African politicians inflate voter registers? When do they destroy ballots? And when do they stuff ballot boxes? In this paper, I explore the subnational patterns of electoral manipulation in Ghana. I argue (1) that in addition to direct benefits of electoral manipulation, i.e. the increased chance of winning, there are important indirect benefits that drive African politicians to manipulate even when victory is guaranteed; (2) that electoral manipulation is expensive and that the direct costs discourage it as much as the indirect costs, i.e. the risk of getting caught; (3) that different types of electoral manipulation have different cost-benefit compositions, allowing politicians to tailor their manipulation strategies and choose the blend of manipulation techniques that best match their needs and capabilities; and (4) that the cost-benefit calculations behind electoral manipulation are made difficult by the scarcity of information, adding a significant stochastic component to the patterns we observe. I test these arguments against a dataset containing information about 505 constituency-level parliamentary elections in Ghana, over two electoral cycles. I show that different types of electoral manipulation have different patterns; that not all types are driven by their direct benefits; and that politicians shift to cheaper, riskier types, when safer ones are too expensive, suggesting a trade-off between the direct and indirect costs of electoral manipulation. The paper proffers a more nuanced understanding of electoral manipulation and contributes to explaining the heterogeneous patterns we observe in many African countries.

Panel P034
The changing face of electoral manipulation in Africa