Elections, Democratic Regression and Transitions to Autocracy: Lessons from Russia and Venezuela

  • Rolf Frankenberger
  • Patricia Graf


Russia and Venezuela have both attempted to close (and to a great degree have achieved the closure of) their respective political systems by circumventing or even eliminating democratic standards. Interestingly, elections are both targets of dedemocratization and a central means of de-democratization. To assess the role of elections in processes of democratic regression, we discuss their quality and functions in different systemic contexts. The case of Venezuela illustrates that elections can be used to legitimize undemocratic leadership styles like governing by decree. The Russian case is a perfect illustration of authoritarian assurance of power and electoral seismography. Analysing Venezuela and Russia, we want to show that the correlation between electoral conditions and functions and regime type is less stable than proclaimed, and that in part we can find democratic functions of elections in non-democratic circumstances and that serve non-democratic means. We argue that it is precisely these “democratic islands” of elections that help smooth transitions to autocracy.


Electoral System Voter Turnout Opinion Poll Informal Institution Electoral Campaign 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Authors and Affiliations

  • Rolf Frankenberger
  • Patricia Graf

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