Elections are conducted differently by authoritarian regimes. The regimes have motives and strategies that undermine the fairness and transparency of the election process. This article analyses three factors that playout in elections in countries run by authoritarian regimes:
- control of media outlets,
- political propaganda on social media, and
- crackdowns on dissent.
Control of media outlets
In authoritarian regimes, free speech and independent journalism are not respected. Governments interfere heavily in media and may censor it. For example, they might ignore negative events or block social media that’s critical. They may also pass laws that restrict free speech and punish those who share information that contradicts the official narrative.
Political propaganda on social media
Authoritarian regimes use social media to spread propaganda and control the narrative. They have teams of trolls who work together to outnumber opposition and critics. They use tactics like hashtag campaigns, getting accounts banned, and spreading false information through fake accounts. These trolls are paid by the autocrats and try to blend in with other social media users to avoid being caught.
Fragmented or absent opposition
It’s hard to overthrow an unpopular authoritarian regime without strong opposition. In many of these countries, opposition parties are either not allowed or are harassed. When opposition candidates do run, they may face violence. Sometimes, authoritarian regimes even pretend to have opposition parties to make it seem like the elections are fair, but they’re not.
In conclusion, authoritarian regimes run elections using communication and information operations as a means to control and manipulate the outcome. They decide which narratives are shared by media and social media in order to shape public opinion and silence opposition while supporting their agendas and reinforcing their grip on power.