Authors: Pippa Norris
August 10, 2007
John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University

Good schools. Clean water. Ending hunger. Empowering women. Eradicating extreme poverty. Cutting disease. How can democratic governance help confront and overcome these development challenges? Many hope that the spread of electoral democracy will gradually reduce poverty and improve equality of opportunities for all. By being empowered to cast a ballot, poor people and marginalized groups can potentially mobilize politically to protect their interests, voice their demands and concerns, and hold political leaders to account for their actions. Electoral rewards and sanctions for those seeking power should encourage responsive government. In developing societies where the vast majority of citizens lack food, healthcare or schooling, electoral logic suggests, government officials will have an incentive to manage the delivery of basic public services or face the threat of being kicked out of office if they fail.

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