CNA Explains: Why 2024 is a historic year for elections

What are other potential risks and consequences?

Ms Dasgupta anticipates that incumbents will remain in power across the majority of this year’s elections.

But this pro-incumbency trend also highlights weak democratic norms in many of Asia’s elections, where opposition parties face high hurdles to gaining power.

Examples include Bangladesh, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

“Such nations have witnessed an erosion in democratic values and choices, sometimes through the numerical decimation of the opposition, or delays in holding elections, or curbing of mass protests with violence,” she said. 

“This risks weighing on long-term institutional strength, even if it delivers continuity and stability in the near term.”

Dr Chong said that in places where democracy is less consolidated, there is the risk of long-standing authoritarians not accepting election results where they perform below their expectations.

“Dissatisfied autocrats could then mobilise against the election results, creating conditions for political instability,” he said. “Situations where a large number of voters believe an election is stolen could also lead to unrest.”

The associate professor also said that limited media literacy as well as political and civic education remain concerns throughout the world.

“Overly controlled or distorted media environments is another challenge, since free and fair elections depend on the availability of quality information on which voters can make their choices,” said Dr Chong.

“These conditions make it easier for election-related mis- and disinformation to take root.

“In parts of Asia where there is limited transparency and restraint over authority, unfair elections are a risk, as is election fraud on the more extreme end of the spectrum,” he added.

“There is also the danger of elite capture whether by powerful interest groups, like certain businesses, or foreign actors.”

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