The Pseudo-Democrat’s Dilemma: Why Election Monitoring Became an International Norm

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The Pseudo-Democrat's Dilemma: Why Election Observation Became an International Norm
By Susan D. Hyde
Cornell University Press, 2011
248 pp. $35.00

As Hyde notes, the practice of inviting foreign observers to monitor elections has become so widespread that it has turned into an international norm. Today, elections that are not observed are widely seen as undemocratic, as Iran discovered in 2009. Hyde is especially puzzled by “electoral autocrats,” such as Vladimir Putin, who welcome foreign monitors to judge their elections even though doing so risks repudiation. The book’s argument is that leaders invite election observers as a “costly signal” to the outside world that their political system meets international standards, expecting that benefits will follow. Behind this argument is a more general observation that states adopt international norms not out of moral obligation but rather out of rational self-interest. Hyde speculates about how this logic might apply to a wider array of international norms that have spread within the developing world, including the adoption of gender quotas in government, the establishment of central banks, the hiring of credit-rating agencies, and the presence of international weapons inspectors. Unfortunately, this more general account of the rise and spread of international norms remains largely implicit.