How to Rig an Election by Nic Cheeseman & Brian Klaas - review by Richard Cockett

Richard Cockett

Votes of No Consequence

How to Rig an Election


Yale University Press 320pp £18.99 order from our bookshop

As a foreign correspondent, I saw plenty of dodgy elections. The worst, undoubtedly, were Nigeria’s state and federal elections in 2007. Moving around Abuja and assorted state capitals, I was privileged to witness the whole gamut of electoral shenanigans. There was plenty of cash being handed out, but that was small-bore stuff. In one place, where the opposition was in with a chance, the ballot boxes simply never arrived; a riot consequently ensued. I wandered into an official state office where the ballots were supposed to be counted and tabulated. Instead, there were rows of women lazily stuffing marked ballots into the boxes. Evidently, this was considered so normal that nobody even bothered to shoo me away. Afterwards I sat beside the hotel pool in Abuja with some hardened Western election observers; they were positively in awe at the brazenness of it all.

The Nigerian election of 2007 crops up in Nic Cheeseman and Brian Klaas’s excellent How to Rig an Election. They quote an American official who commented that the process was so bad that it was not really an election at all. Rather, it should be referred to as

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