Show election

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A show election, also known as a sham election or rubber stamp election, is an election that is held purely for show, that is, without any significant political purpose. Show elections are a common event in dictatorial regimes that still feel the need to establish some element of public legitimacy.

Results predictably show nearly 100% voter turnout and nearly 100% support for the prescribed (often the only) list of candidates or for referendums that favor the political party in power. Examples of such elections include elections in the Soviet Union, North Korea, and Baathist Iraq. A predetermined conclusion is always established by the regime, either through suppression of the opposition, coercion of voters, vote rigging, forged number of “votes received” (e.g., the State of Vietnam referendum, 1955), or some combination. In an extreme example Charles D. B. King of Liberia claimed he received 243,000 votes, which exceeded the number of eligible voters over 15 times.[1]

Ballots in a show election may contain only one “yes” option. In case of a simple “yes or no” question, people who pick “no” are often persecuted, thus making the “yes” choice the only option. For example. the elections in North Korea require a voter to publicly reject the official candidate. People are often coerced to vote. For example, people who voted in the election of the People’s Parliaments in Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania in 1940 received stamps in their passport. Those who did not have the stamp were persecuted as the “enemy of the people“.[2]

In some cases, show elections can backfire against the party in power, especially if the regime believe they are popular enough to win without coercion or fraud, e.g., in the Burmese general election, 1990.

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