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Does Democracy Aid Improve Electoral Quality? The Impact of Democracy Aid on Electoral Violence and Free and Fair Elections in Sub-Saharan Africa
The Korean Journal of International Studies 22-1 (April 2024), 67-89
Published online April 30, 2024
© 2024 The Korean Association of International Studies.

Jungsub Shin  [Bio-Data]
Received January 31, 2024; Revised March 5, 2024; Accepted April 9, 2024.
This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0) which permits unrestricted non-commercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Abstract
While most countries in Sub-Saharan Africa adopt multiparty elections, the quality of elections in these countries is not highly regarded. This paper investigates whether democracy aid contributes to improving the quality of elections, with a specific focus on two aspects: electoral violence and the integrity of free and fair elections. Through an analysis of 185 elections held in 41 Sub-Saharan African countries that conducted multiparty elections from 2002 to 2021, this study finds that higher levels of democracy assistance before elections are associated with a reduction in electoral violence and an improvement in the quality of free and fair elections. The results suggest that aid donors should prioritize targeted assistance aimed at enhancing electoral quality and democratic institutions.
Keywords : Electoral Quality, Electoral Violence, Democracy Aid, Sub-Saharan Africa
INTRODUCTION

Over the past three decades, the global landscape has witnessed the remarkable proliferation of multiparty elections across numerous developing countries, signaling a significant shift towards democratic governance. However, despite this widespread adoption, numerous emerging democracies still grapple with challenges related to the credibility of their electoral processes. Nowhere are these challenges more evident than in Sub-Saharan Africa. The region has indeed made significant strides in embracing multiparty elections, yet the quality of democracy and electoral processes often falls short of international standards (Freedom House 2020). Electoral violence, voter intimidation, irregularities, and lack of accountability continue to undermine the credibility and legitimacy of electoral outcomes, posing formidable obstacles to the establishment of robust democratic institutions (Alemika 2007). Reaping the economic and social benefits of democracy critically depends on the quality of electoral contests (Chauvet and Collier 2009), thus promoting the quality of elections is of paramount importance in this region. While democracy entails various components beyond just free and fair elections, the absence of such elections renders democracy unattainable.

On one hand, existing research on electoral integrity has explored a wide range of determinants, encompassing institutional factors such as the role of political institutions (Elklit and Reynolds 2005; Birch 2008; Lehoucq and Kolev 2015; Birch and van Ham 2017), structural explanations like economic development and inequality (Birch 2011; Lehoucq 2003; Norris 2015), and actor-based explanations such as the media and election observers (van Ham 2012; Hyde 2011b; Ichino and Schündeln 2012). However, little attention has been given to democracy aid in this context. On the other hand, the literature on foreign aid has examined the impact of foreign aid on the democratic development of recipient countries in various ways, but few studies have attempted to capture the effects of democracy aid on electoral quality in Sub-Saharan Africa using quantitative methods. Recognizing the importance of electoral integrity and the role of democracy aid in shaping democratic outcomes, this study seeks to examine the impact of democracy aid on electoral quality by focusing on electoral violence and the quality of free and fair elections in Sub-Saharan African countries.

Through an analysis of 185 elections held in 41 Sub-Saharan African countries that conducted multiparty elections from 2002 to 2021, this study finds that higher levels of democracy assistance prior to elections are associated with a reduction in electoral violence and an improvement in the quality of free and fair elections. The results suggest that aid donors should prioritize targeted assistance aimed at enhancing electoral quality and democratic institutions. Additionally, increasing democracy aid could serve as an effective strategy in achieving these objectives.

DEMOCRACY AND ELECTORAL QUALITY

Multiparty elections have become prevalent across much of the developing world in the past 30 years. According to Hyde (2011a), nearly every country worldwide, irrespective of its political system, has held national elections, with only eleven exceptions since 1990. However, numerous emerging democracies still suffer from a lack of credible electoral institutions and processes. Between 1980 and 2010, more than 70% of elections in developing countries were reported by independent observers to have significant issues (Kelley 2012). Moreover, according to Freedom Housés 2020 report, only 115 out of 190 countries are categorized as electoral democracies, indicating predominantly free and fair elections. This highlights that mere election implementation doesn't inherently safeguard a country's democratic integrity. Distinguishing between superficial democratic procedures and authentic democratic principles is a critical component in determining the quality of electoral processes.

While assessing the quality of elections entails considering numerous factors, the terms “electoral integrity” and “free and fair election” are commonly employed to characterize the level of electoral quality. Electoral integrity is often defined as “any election firmly rooted in the democratic principles of universal suffrage and political equality, as delineated in international standards and agreements. It is further characterized by professionalism, impartiality, and transparency throughout all phases of the electoral process” (Annan et al. 2012, p. 6). When elections lack integrity, it signifies a lack of accountability among politicians, officials, and institutions to the public. This deprives individuals of equal opportunities to engage in and influence the political process. Consequently, declining trust in elections poses legitimacy concerns for governments (Norris et al. 2013).

Hence, existing studies on electoral integrity have investigated various determinants, ranging from institutional factors to structural explanations. Institutional explanations focus on political institutions that shape electoral rules. Majoritarian electoral systems often increase manipulation (Birch 2008), while proportional systems tend to decrease it (Lehoucq and Kolev 2015). Strong checks and balances, like power-sharing arrangements (Elklit and Reynolds 2005) and independent judiciaries (Birch and van Ham 2017), can also enhance electoral integrity. Structural explanations in electoral integrity studies focus on economic and social factors like development, inequality, and heterogeneity. Countries with high poverty rates, significant economic disparities, and deep social divisions tend to experience more electoral manipulation (Birch 2011; Lehoucq 2003; Norris 2015). Also, past experiences with democratic elections contribute to fostering electoral integrity (van Ham 2012). Some explanations revolve around actors, like the influence of independent media (Birch 2011; Birch and van Ham 2017) or the presence of international and domestic election observers (Hyde 2011b; Ichino and Schündeln 2012). And extensive literature is emerging on particular forms of electoral manipulation, such as vote-buying and election violence (Collier and Vincente 2012; Daxecker 2012; Hafner-Burton et al. 2014; Wilkinson 2006).

But research on the impact of democracy aid, which is located among the three explanations, remains notably limited. While some studies aim to assess the effectiveness of democracy aid in promoting electoral democracy, they encounter various constraints, which we will discuss in the following section.

THE EFFECTIVENESS OF DEMOCRACY AID

After the Cold War, the widespread promotion of democracy has been one of the major foreign policy goals in developed democracies (Carothers 1999; Burnell 2005). Currently, global democracy assistance exceeds ten billion dollars annually, with the proportion of democracy aid among total Official Development Assistance (ODA) rising from 6.7% in 2002 to 10.0% in 2019 (Ha 2023, 94-95). But the impact of democracy aid remains uncertain, generating interest among numerous scholars and policymakers, with empirical evidence presenting mixed results.

Some scholars offer evidence suggesting that aid facilitates democracy (Goldsmith 2001; Finkel et al. 2007; Bermeo 2016; Carnegie and Marinov 2017; Gafuri 2022). Research suggesting that foreign aid significantly contributes to democracy in recipient countries is supported by three main rationales. Firstly, drawing from modernization theory, foreign aid fosters economic growth, enabling the emergence of a middle class and civil society, crucial for democratic advancement (Goldsmith 2001). Secondly, technical assistance promotes the development of political institutions, civil society, and media, catalyzing institutional growth and fostering democracy (Scott and Steele 2011). Lastly, the conditional nature of democracy aid stimulates democratic progress in recipient countries by prioritizing democracy and human rights improvements as prerequisites for aid from major donors such as the United States and the European Union (Goldsmith 2001; Finkel et al. 2007; Scott and Steele 2011; Gafuri 2022).

Contrary to the stance suggesting that foreign aid promotes democracy in recipient countries, a range of studies indicate that aid has minimal impact (Knack 2004) or may even have adverse effects (Bräutigam and Knack 2004, Djankov et al. 2008; Licht 2010) on democratic progress and institutional growth. In particular, Friedman (1958) argued that foreign aid could have a negative impact on the democracy of recipient countries, as it tends to be directed towards dictators or authoritarian governments rather than directly benefiting the general population. These dictators or authoritarian governments often utilize such aid to maintain their power rather than to benefit the people. For instance, when foreign aid flows into a recipient country, various power groups often compete to secure their share, leading to frequent instances of armed conflict among these groups (Grossman 1992). Maren (1997), through the case of Somalia, demonstrated how foreign aid can inadvertently fuel armed conflict and political violence instead of aiding the recipient country. Subsequent research by Bräutigam and Knack (2004) has further supported these claims.

In turn, some studies found that aid effectiveness is influenced by the institutional mechanisms and political systems of recipient countries. For example, Burnside and Dollar (2004) found that ODA leads to economic growth only in countries with a high level of rule of law. Driffield and Jones (2013) contend that bureaucratic institutional quality positively influences economic development only when it is of high quality. While these studies primarily analyze the economic effectiveness of general Official Development Assistance (ODA) rather than focusing on the effectiveness of democracy assistance, they nonetheless provide factors worth considering in analyzing the effectiveness of democracy assistance.

As reviewed above, various studies have indeed explored the relationship between foreign aid and the advancement of democracy in recipient countries. However, there remain overlooked areas in existing research. Firstly, prior studies have primarily concentrated on assessing the effectiveness of democracy aid from specific countries, such as the United States (Finkel et al. 2007; Scott and Steele 2011) or the European Union (Gafuri 2022). Secondly, much of existing research has relied heavily on comprehensive democracy indices as a sole dependent variable, neglecting specific factors like the quality of elections or election-related violence, which significantly influence democratization and democratic resilience. Thirdly, while recent studies (Steele et al. 2021) have endeavored to investigate the effects of democracy aid on specific aspects of democracy in recipient countries, none have specifically focused on Sub-Saharan Africa. Overall, there has been a notable lack of focus on how democracy aid impacts electoral quality and electoral violence in Sub-Saharan African countries. Therefore, this study aims to address this gap by investigating the effects of democracy aid on electoral quality and electoral violence in Sub-Saharan Africa using panel data.

DEMOCRACY AID AND ELECTORAL QUALITY IN SUB-SAHARAN AFRICA

Sub-Saharan Africa receives the most foreign aid in the world. According to OECD’s announcement, the region received \$34,742 million in 2021, accounting for approximately 21% of global foreign aid.1 Nonetheless, countries in Sub-Saharan Africa still face challenges in consolidating democracy. While most countries in Sub-Saharan Africa have adopted multiparty elections, the quality of democracy in these countries is not highly regarded.

The democratization process in sub-Saharan Africa began in Benin in 1989 and gradually expanded to several countries by the mid-1990s. As a result, multiparty elections have been held at least once in 46 out of the 49 countries in this region. Furthermore, more than ten multiparty elections have been held annually across the African continent since the mid-1990s, but these elections have not always been free and fair. According to Freedom House’s 2020 report2, only 31% of African countries were considered to have achieved electoral democracy. One of the primary obstacles to the consolidation of democracy in Sub-Saharan African countries is the lack of free and fair elections, which are fundamental to democracy. Occurrences like vote-buying, violence during election campaigns, and the coercion of specific voters are frequently witnessed in numerous elections within the region, indicating persistent challenges in the electoral processes (Alemika 2007).

Figure 1 illustrates the trend in the Free and Fair Election Index (V-Dem Index) across regions since 1990. The V-Dem Free and Fair Election Index is typically measured on a scale from 0 to 4, with a higher score indicating more free and fair elections. According to Figure 1, the Middle East and North Africa, as well as sub-Saharan Africa, consistently exhibit the lowest scores compared to other regions since 1990. Additionally, the score of sub-Saharan Africa is notably lower than the global average. Thus, Figure 1 illustrates that free and fair elections are significantly lacking in Africa.

Furthermore, among various forms of electoral irregularities that undermine electoral quality, including electoral violence, vote-buying, ballot box stuffing, destruction of ballot papers, voter intimidation, and manipulation of electoral agencies to ensure victory for the incumbent government, electoral violence is particularly widespread in Africa (Bekoe 2012; Burchard 2015). In fact, electoral violence is not exclusive to Africa. It stands as one of the major irregularities that significantly diminish the quality of elections worldwide. Electoral violence such as threats, intimidation, and coercion are commonly observed in about twenty-five percent of electoral processes in the world (Hafner-Burton et al. 2014). The presence of threats and coercion in the electoral process not only contradicts fundamental principles, thus undermining the quality of elections (Norris et al. 2013), but also adversely affects perceptions of election quality (Kerr 2013; 2018).

Figure 2 depicts trends in the Electoral Violence Index (V-Dem Index) across regions since 1990. This index has two sub-indices: one for violence by the government and ruling party, and the other for violence by opposition parties or non-governmental actors, both rated from 0 to 4. The index shown in Figure 2 is the average of these sub-indices, with higher values indicating less violence and more peaceful elections. Sub-Saharan Africa consistently exhibits the lowest scores compared to other regions since 1990, with its score notably lower than the global average. The severity of electoral violence in the Sub-Saharan Africa region is not only evident in macro-indicators but is also supported by numerous cases. For example, In Zimbabwe, under President Robert Mugabe, violence during the 2008 elections led to over 80 deaths and thousands injured. Kenya saw violence in the 2013 elections, with over 12 deaths. In Uganda, President Yoweri Museveni's sixth term victory in 2021 was marred by reports of suppressing opposition activities.

Development Assistance Committee (DAC) countries have consistently provided democracy assistance to Sub-Saharan Africa to mitigate the challenges of electoral violence and the poor quality of elections in the region. There has been a gradual increase in overall allocation of democracy aid in Sub-Saharan Africa over time, despite the proportionally lower amount of democracy aid compared to total development aid (Resnick 2012). While development aid indirectly contributes to democracy by enhancing socio-economic conditions, targeted democracy assistance programs, known as democracy aid, directly empower internal agents such as individuals, civil society, and other democratic institutions, thereby more effectively promoting democracy in recipient countries (Finkel et al. 2007 405). Moreover, Democracy aid, targeted at enhancing the democratic processes of recipient countries, includes technical support for elections and electoral institutions, backing for legislative bodies, training of legislative staff, and the promotion of women's groups. This assistance typically involves deploying consultants and advisors, strengthening institutions, and training officials to enhance oversight and capacity-building. It is believed to create a monitoring effect, allowing donors to have better oversight when relying solely on recipient governments is not feasible (Arndt 2000; Berg 2000).

Gafuri (2022) specifically identifies democracy aid as encompassing support for democratic participation and civil society, elections, legislatures and political parties, media and free flow of information, and human rights. Each category of democracy aid not only improves the integrity of elections in recipient countries but also mitigates electoral violence. First, aid for civil society empowers citizens by educating them on their rights, monitoring elections independently, advocating for electoral reforms, providing legal support, and fostering social cohesion. These efforts strengthen democratic institutions and promote fair elections. Second, aid for elections enhances electoral integrity through technical assistance, capacity-building, monitoring, voter education, and conflict prevention. These measures improve processes, transparency, and citizen empowerment, essential for credible elections. Third, aid for legislatures and political parties strengthens legal frameworks, builds capacity, promotes political competition, and enhances oversight. By supporting fair representation and informed participation, this aid ensures transparent and inclusive electoral processes. Fourth, aid for media supports press freedom, professional development, comprehensive electoral coverage, and combating misinformation. By fostering transparency and holding officials accountable, media aid contributes significantly to fair and credible elections. Lastly, aid for human rights promotes inclusivity, prevents voter suppression, strengthens electoral justice, fosters freedom of expression, and monitors human rights violations. These efforts uphold the integrity of the electoral process by ensuring equal participation and accountability. Therefore, democracy aid can play a crucial role in promoting fair, transparent, and accountable electoral processes, essential for sustaining democracy and peace.

However, in some respects, targeted democracy aid can be seen as a form of interference in the internal affairs of a country's politics. In addition, in some cases, recipient countries may reject or unfavorably perceive such democracy assistance. Nevertheless, this situation facilitates the analysis of the effect of targeted democracy aid on electoral integrity because it creates a distinction between countries that receive a lot of democracy assistance and those that do not.

Based on this rationale, this paper investigates whether democracy aid contributes to improving the quality of elections by focusing on two aspects: electoral violence and the integrity of free and fair elections.

RESEARCH DESIGN

This study examines the impact of democracy aid on electoral violence and the integrity of free and fair elections in Sub-Saharan African countries, utilizing time-series cross-sectional data. The analysis encompasses 185 elections conducted in 41 Sub-Saharan African countries between 2002 and 2021. These elections include both presidential and parliamentary elections, with local elections excluded from consideration. Furthermore, the study focuses exclusively on elections involving multiple legitimate parties participating in the electoral process.3

This study employs two dependent variables to assess the quality of elections in Sub-Saharan African countries: the electoral violence index and the free and fair election index. Data for these variables are sourced from the Varieties of Democracy (V-Dem) datasets. Within the V-Dem datasets (Coppedge et al. 2023), electoral violence is evaluated through two distinct aspects: election government intimidation (“v2elintim”) and other electoral violence (“v2elpeace”) during the election period. Election government intimidation measures whether opposition candidates, parties, or campaign workers faced repression, intimidation, violence, or harassment by the government, ruling party, or their agents. Other electoral violence assesses whether there was violence unrelated to the government or its agents during the campaign period, election day, and post-election process. Both measurements are typically coded on a 0 to 4 scale and transformed into an interval scale by using a Bayesian item response theory measurement model, with higher scores indicating fewer instances of violence and more peaceful elections. In this research, these measurements are combined by adding them together and then dividing by 2, resulting in a single measurement. Additionally, the measurement is reversed, so a higher score reflects more severe electoral violence.

The free and fair election index (“v2elfrfair”) is a broader indicator used to evaluate the quality of elections, encompassing electoral violence, government intimidation, fraud, major irregularities, and vote-buying. This index, measured on a scale from 0 to 4 as an ordinal variable, is converted to an interval scale using a Bayesian item response theory measurement model. Higher scores denote a higher degree of free and fair elections.

The main independent variable is the amount of democracy aid provided by Development Assistance Committee (DAC) countries before elections. The ODA data is based on OECD Statistics4, with the basic unit being US dollars, in millions, for the year 2021. Measuring democracy aid poses challenges due to the absence of a universal standard for categorizing ODA as democracy assistance. In this research, I adopt a method for quantifying democracy assistance based on a recent study by Gafuri (2022), which defines democracy aid using criteria derived from Dahl's conceptualization of democracy and the EU’s democracy promotion instruments. By utilizing the Crediting Reporting System (CRS) codes in the OECD database, Gafuri (2022) identifies specific categories of aid, including Democratic Participation & Civil Society (CRS code 151.50), Elections (CRS code 151.51), Legislatures and Political Parties (CRS code 151.52), Media and Free Flow of Information (CRS code 151.53), and Human Rights (CRS code 151.60), as constituting democracy assistance. OECD/DAC statistics started including a category for democracy aid, such as “Government and Civil Society,” in 2002. This category was introduced to specifically report aid activities related to governance and democracy. Based on these criteria, this study aggregated all five aid categories mentioned above to measure the amount of democracy aid received by Sub-Saharan African countries. In this study, I hypothesized that a higher amount of aid would lead to more resources available to improve electoral violence and the quality of elections. Therefore, the absolute amount of aid, rather than aid per capita, was used as the independent variable.

Figure 3 shows the amount of democracy aid received by each of the 41 sample countries from DAC countries from 2002 to 2021. According to Figure 3, the amount of democracy aid received by Sub-Saharan African countries varies from one country to another, and within each country, it fluctuates over time. It is therefore evident that there is sufficient variation in the amount of democracy aid across samples to test its impact on levels of electoral violence and free and fair elections in Sub-Saharan Africa.

To account for other factors that might influence levels of electoral violence and free and fair elections, this paper includes several control variables. Control variables encompass socio-economic status, political factors, and general foreign aid excluding democracy assistance. Socio-economic variables include GDP per capita (GDP per capita constant 2010 US dollar) and population size, sourced from the World Bank's World Development Indicators. It has been shown that the level of economic development and population size can influence electoral violence (Hafner-Burton et al. 2014).

Political factors include democracy level, democratization period (years since the first multiparty election), and corruption level, retrieved from the V-Dem database. The quality of elections in a country can be influenced by its democracy and corruption levels (Marshall et al. 2002; Birch 2020). The level of democracy was measured using the Liberal Democracy Index ('v2x_libdem'), which assesses the protection of individual and minority rights against the tyranny of the state and the tyranny of the majority. The corruption level was measured using the Political Corruption Index ('v2x_corr'), which measures the average of (a) the public sector corruption index ('v2x_pubcorr'), (b) the executive corruption index ('v2x_execorr'), (c) the indicator for legislative corruption ('v2lgcrrpt'), and (d) the indicator for judicial corruption ('v2jucorrdc'). Finally, this study includes the amount of ODA (measured in US dollars (millions)) received from DAC countries, excluding democracy aid, as a control variable. As mentioned above, studies have indicated that foreign aid itself, even if not specifically democracy aid, can have either positive or negative effects on the democracy of recipient countries.

Table 1 presents the descriptive statistics of variables utilized in this analysis. Given concerns regarding potential multicollinearity among independent variables, a thorough multicollinearity assessment was undertaken. The results of VIF (Variance Inflation Factor) tests indicated that the population variable exhibited the highest VIF value at 2.30. While this value is below the threshold of 2.5, typically considered indicative of a serious multicollinearity problem, caution is still warranted. Additionally, the Pearson correlation coefficient between the total ODA amount variable and the population variable was 0.562. Although this correlation coefficient is not insignificant, it does not imply multicollinearity severe enough to necessitate variable exclusion. Hence, I conclude that multicollinearity is not a significant issue in this analysis.

The unit of analysis in this study is elections in Sub-Saharan African countries. Fixed effects models were chosen for hypothesis testing for several reasons. Firstly, the selection of fixed effects models was based on the results of the Hausman test. Secondly, fixed effect models effectively account for average differences across countries, capturing both observable and unobservable factors influencing democracy, such as culture, norms, colonial legacies, and geopolitical locations. While concerns have been raised regarding the potential violation of selection bias when using fixed effects models with unbalanced panel data, it is important to underscore that fixed effects models still work under certain conditions, notably when individuals do not possess only one observation, missing data is random, and not correlated with the outcome (Verbeek and Nijman 1992; Baltagi and Song 2006). For the sample (elections) included in this study’s analysis, there are no issues regarding these aspects.

RESULTS

This study examines the impact of democracy aid on the quality of elections in Sub-Saharan African countries, focusing on the Electoral Violence Index and the Free and Fair Election Index. Table 2 illustrates the effect of democracy aid on electoral violence in Sub-Saharan African countries. For the non-democracy ODA amount and population figures, logarithmic transformation was applied and included in the regression analysis due to their numerical magnitudes being significantly larger compared to the numerical units of other variables.

The electoral violence index indicates higher levels of electoral violence as the number increases. As the influence of foreign aid on the democracy of recipient countries takes time to manifest, lag variables are utilized as main independent variables, following previous research (Scott and Steele 2005; Gafuri 2022). In Model 1, the independent variable is democracy aid received one year before the election, while in Model 2, it is democracy aid received two years before the election. In both Model 1 and Model 2, the coefficients of the democracy aid variables are negative and statistically significant. This implies that a higher amount of democracy aid received before the election years decrease electoral violence during the election year. Specifically, the coefficient for the democracy aid variable one year before the election in Model 1 is -0.027, while the coefficient for the democracy aid variable two years before the election in Model 2 is -0.042, suggesting a slightly stronger impact of democracy aid on electoral violence two years prior to the election. These findings suggest that democracy aid has an effect in reducing electoral violence in Sub-Saharan Africa.

When examining the control variables, it was found that the total amount of ODA excluding democracy aid did not have a significant impact on reducing electoral violence. Among the political factors, the level of democracy (measured by the liberal democracy index) showed a significant effect, indicating that higher levels of institutional democracy were associated with lower levels of electoral violence. However, democratization period and corruption levels did not influence electoral violence. Regarding socio-economic factors, it was observed that higher population numbers were associated with increased electoral violence.

Table 3 presents the effect of democracy aid on the free and fair election index in Sub-Saharan African countries. The higher the value of the free and fair election index, the better the quality of the elections. Compared to the electoral violence index, the free and fair election index provides a comprehensive assessment of the quality of elections. In Table 3, Model 3 utilizes democracy aid received one year before the election as the independent variable, while Model 4 uses democracy aid received two years before the election.

In both Model 3 and Model 4 of Table 3, the regression coefficients for the democracy aid variables are positive and statistically significant. This implies that a higher amount of democracy aid received before the election years leads to higher scores in the free and fair election index. Specifically, the coefficient for the democracy aid variable one year before the election in Model 3 is 0.015, while the coefficient for the democracy aid variable two years before the election in Model 4 is 0.019, suggesting a slightly stronger impact of democracy aid on free and fair elections two years prior to the election. These results indicate a significant effect of democracy aid in promoting free and fair elections in Sub-Saharan African countries.

For the control variables, it was observed that the total ODA amount, excluding democracy aid, yielded a negative regression coefficient in both Models 3 and 4, although this effect did not achieve statistical significance. This suggests that foreign aid not explicitly earmarked for democracy promotion does not appear to facilitate the advancement of free and fair electoral processes. Such a finding is in line with prior studies suggesting that non-democracy-oriented ODA may even impede democratic progress in recipient countries (Bräutigam and Knack 2004; Djankov et al. 2008; Licht 2010). Notably, within the realm of political factors, the level of electoral democracy demonstrated significant effects, indicating that higher levels of liberal democracy corresponded to enhanced levels of electoral freedom and fairness. However, corruption levels and the duration of democratization did not exhibit a statistically significant impact. Among socio-economic factors, none of the variables demonstrated significance.

CONCLUSION

Elections stand as a fundamental cornerstone in upholding the principles of democratic governance. While electoral democracy has been widely adopted across Sub-Saharan Africa since 1990, the region grapples with significant hurdles in ensuring the credibility of its electoral systems. Improving the quality of elections is essential for realizing the full benefits of democracy in the region. This study delves into the role of democracy aid, an area that has received scant attention in existing scholarly discourse, in bolstering the quality of elections in Sub-Saharan Africa.

By estimating the effects of democracy aid on electoral violence and the integrity of free and fair elections, which are prevalent issues in many countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, this paper seeks to examine whether democracy aid contributes to the improvement of electoral quality in this region. Using panel data analysis to assess 185 multiparty elections conducted between 2002 and 2021, the study reveals that higher levels of democracy assistance prior to elections correlate with reduced electoral violence and increased levels of free and fair elections. Importantly, this effect persists even after controlling for economic and political factors that may influence the quality of elections. Conversely, the study finds that development ODA, excluding democracy aid, not only fails to mitigate electoral violence but also exacerbates challenges related to free and fair elections.

The findings of this paper have implications not only for the literature on foreign aid and electoral integrity but also for policy recommendations. The result of this study underscores the necessity for aid donors to prioritize targeted assistance aimed at bolstering electoral quality and democratic institutions in recipient countries. Furthermore, the result of this study highlights the importance of sustained support and investment in democratic governance to achieve enduring improvements in electoral integrity. Policymakers and donor organizations should consider allocating additional resources to democracy assistance programs in the region to further advance the process of democratic consolidation.

However, there are some limitations to this study. Firstly, the focus on Sub-Saharan Africa may restrict the generalizability of the findings to other regions. Electoral dynamics and the effects of democracy aid may differ significantly across various geographical and political contexts, warranting caution in applying the conclusions elsewhere. Secondly, the reliance on quantitative panel data analysis might overlook qualitative nuances and contextual factors that could offer deeper insights into the relationship between democracy aid and electoral quality. Future research could complement these findings with qualitative studies or case analyses to provide a more holistic understanding. Lastly, while the study primarily examines the impact of democracy aid on electoral violence and the integrity of free and fair elections, other dimensions of electoral quality such as voter turnout, political participation, and inclusivity may also be influenced by democracy aid and merit further exploration.

Footnote

1 Derived from data on the website statista.com

(https://www.statista.com/statistics/1361571/world-total-official-development-aid-sector-region/#statisticContainer)

2 https://freedomhouse.org/reports

3 The list of country-elections in the sample is available in the Appendix A.

4 OECD. Stat (URL: https://stats.oecd.org/Index.aspx?DataSetCode=CRS1)

Figures
Fig. 1. Trends in the Free and Fair Election Index across Regions
Fig. 2. Trends in the Electoral Violence Index Across Regions
Fig. 3. Democracy Aid Received from DAC Countries Across Sample Countries
Tables
Table. 1. Descriptive Statistics
Table. 2. The Effects of Democracy Aid on Election Violence in Sub-Saharan Africa
Table. 3. The Effects of Democracy Aid on Free and Fair Election in Sub-Saharan Africa
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