Stuffing the Ballot Box: Fraud, Electoral Reform, and Democratization in Costa Rica

By Fabrice E. Lehoucq; Iván Molina | Go to book overview

Introduction

Central Questions

Why do politicians reform the institutions that keep them in power? Why do they relinquish the ability to rig electoral results? The nonfraudulent 2000 Yugoslavian elections triggered the collapse of President Slobodan Milosevic's nationalist regime. The fairness of the 2000 elections in Mexico signaled the end of the PRI's sixty-year stranglehold on the presidency. Yet, for every occasion when dictators respect the results of the ballot box, there are many examples of regimes that rig elections in their favor. Why incumbents would consent to having – and respecting the outcomes of – fair elections, however, is far from clear.

This book explains the development of fair electoral practices in Costa Rica to shed light on the politics of institutional reform. As in Chile, England, Sweden, and Uruguay, politicians in nineteenth century Costa Rica gradually transformed a competitive but fraud-ridden republic into a modern democracy – one that, since 1949, has held regularly scheduled, fair elections and where every adult is entitled to vote.1 Party politics took

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1
For recent discussions of the postwar political system, see John A. Booth, Costa Rica: Quest for Democracy (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1998); Fabrice Lehoucq, Lucha electoral y sistema político en Costa Rica, 1948–1998 (San José: Editorial Porvenir, 1997); and Bruce Wilson, Costa Rica: Politics, Economics and Democracy (Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner Pubs, 1998). For studies that place the Latin American cases in broader perspective, see Jonathan Hartlyn and Arturo Valenzuela, “Democracy in Latin America since 1930, ” in Leslie Bethell, ed., Latin America: Politics and Society since 1930 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1998), pp. 3–66, John Markoff, Waves of Democratization (Thousand Oaks, CA: Pine Forge Press, 1996), John A. Peeler, Building Democracy in Latin America (Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner Pubs, 1998), J. Samuel and Arturo Valenzuela, “Los orígenes de la democracia: reflexiones teóricas sobre el caso de Chile, ” Estudios Públicos (Santiago de Chile), No. 13 (Spring 1983), pp. 3–37.

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