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Throughout the world, scholars and international organisations have voiced their concern in recent years that democracy appears to be ‘backsliding.’ Elections are an indispensable part of the democratic system, but there has been relatively little focus on whether we have witnessed ‘electoral backsliding’. This special issue introductory article considers three rival theses (backsliding, strengthening and divergence) about the trajectory of election quality in response to new structural changes - which are evaluated against empirical datasets. The evidence provides little support electoral backsliding at the aggregate level. There is a continued need to monitor patterns of election quality for signals of future electoral backsliding. The research agenda on electoral integrity therefore remains an indispensable one. However, existing narratives about democratic backsliding should be more nuanced to the more complex and varied trajectories in the integrity of key democratic institutions.
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