Monitoring Democracy

When International Election Observation Works, and Why It Often Fails

Judith G. Kelley

Princeton University Press – March 2012

Is international election monitoring a good idea? In recent decades, governments and NGOs—in an effort to promote democracy, freedom, fairness, and stability throughout the world—have organized teams of observers to monitor elections in a variety of countries. But when more and more organizations join the practice without uniform standards, are assessments reliable? When politicians nonetheless cheat and monitors must return to countries even after two decades of engagement, what is accomplished? Monitoring Democracy argues that the practice of international election monitoring is broken, but still worth fixing. By analyzing the evolving interaction between domestic and international politics, Kelley refutes prevailing arguments that international efforts cannot curb government behavior and that democratization is entirely a domestic process. Yet, she also shows that democracy promotion efforts are deficient and that outside actors are often regrettably powerless, sometimes even harmful.

Analyzing original data on over 600 monitoring missions and 1,300 elections, Kelley grounds her investigation in solid historical context as well as studies of long-term developments over several elections in fifteen countries. She pinpoints the weaknesses of international election monitoring and looks at how practitioners and policymakers might help to improve them. Demonstrating the power and problems of transnational actors, Kelley crystallizes the tough dilemmas that the international community faces in using international election monitoring to promote democracy and liberal values.

Judith G. Kelley is associate professor of public policy and political science at Duke University. She is the author of Ethnic Politics in Europe: The Power of Norms and Incentives (Princeton).



“This probing, nuanced, and insightful analysis of international election monitoring splendidly illuminates and assesses a key area of international democracy support. The book’s conclusions about the mixed utility and many dilemmas of election monitoring are persuasive and deserve wide attention. Extra kudos to Judith Kelley for providing an all-too-rare example of sophisticated, rigorous political science methods being brought to bear on the domain of democracy promotion.”–Thomas Carothers, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

“Judith Kelley has written not only the definitive book on election monitoring for scholars and practitioners, but also an important new work on the modern practice of democracy itself. Her persuasive and carefully conducted analysis of election monitoring reveals its positive effects as well as its ambiguities and shortcomings. Election monitoring organizations should make Monitoring Democracy required reading for all their staff.”–Kathryn Sikkink, University of Minnesota

“In this book, Judith Kelley shows her skills as a political detective, demonstrating with impressive social science that under certain conditions–not all–election monitoring promotes democracy. If you read only one book on election monitoring, read Monitoring Democracy.”–Robert O. Keohane, Princeton University

“This timely book provides the first inclusive study of election monitoring as it has developed since the mid-1970s. It contains strong arguments, meticulous analysis, and a genuine understanding of the complexities of individual elections throughout the world.”–Jørgen Elklit, Aarhus University

“No other book compares the operations of different monitoring organizations and offers such a comprehensive overview of their effectiveness.”–Amanda Sives, University of Liverpool

Monitoring Democracy answers a host of foundational questions about international election observation. What is novel about this book–and what stands as Judith Kelley’s singular achievement–is her comprehensive and systematic collection of evidence. Her interpretation of this evidence is, happily, always nuanced, judicious, and just plain smart. A must-read book.”–Frederic C. Schaffer, University of Massachusetts, Amherst


9 Replies to “Book”

  1. Youre so cool! I dont suppose Ive read something like this before. So good to seek out any individual with some unique thoughts on this subject. realy thanks for starting this up. this website is something that’s needed on the internet, someone with just a little originality. useful job for bringing something new to the internet!

  2. Superb site you have here but I was curious about if you knew of any message boards that cover the same topics talked about here? I’d really love to be a part of online community where I can get feedback from other experienced individuals that share the same interest. If you have any recommendations, please let me know. Thanks a lot!

    1. Thanks for your comment. There is an elections group on Linked-In that’s quite active. There is also the Ace Electoral Network.

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