Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The Electoral Lie-Detector

So far, we've had four elections since 1990.

Two of them were rigged – those of 1996 and of 2001, the latter massively.

In all likelihood, the last election was rigged, also – but I'm working on that one (turnout of 87% and in certain constituencies 92% - sounds like a banana republic election!).

Like a gullible fool, I didn't believe it when a bureaucrat told me that the 2001 election had 'also' been rigged. But the thought persisted.

Then, while reading The Economist*, I chanced upon work by Walter Mebane on elections forensics using properties of numbers.

He confirmed exactly what the bureaucrat told me.

Ponder: none of our newspapers let us in on the rotten secret; so many lives were lost in political violence – for rigged elections!

It all makes sense: western donors and our bureaucrats have taken it upon themselves to give Buggins his (or her) turn. It's all an eyewash, for the consumption of the US and EU domestic audience, and our masses as well as our intelligentsia (except the bureaucrats, who are past masters at manipulation).

I wrote Walter Mebane about the last election, and this was his reply:

Mr. Sayeed,

I read about the election in the media, but I haven't looked at it in
any detail. Do you know a source for election returns at the polling
station level? Given such information, I can replicate the kind of
analysis I did for earlier elections.


Unfortunately, I have not been able to get my hands on data at polling station level: if anyone out there has access to such data, would you please contact me?

"One example concerns an analysis of the last three elections in Bangladesh. The 1991 election showed no strange results. For the 1996 election some 2% of results were problematic. And fully 9% of the results in 2001 failed the test. The 2001 election was fiercely contested. Yet monitors from the Carter Centre and the European Union found the election to be acceptably, if not entirely, free and fair. Tests like Dr. Mebane's one could provide monitors with quantitative estimates of exactly how free and fair an election has been.... [The Economist, February 24 2007, p 82]"

No comments: