Safeguarding election management bodies in the age of democratic recession

Toby S. James, Khabele Matlosa, Victor Shale

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


There is strong evidence that we have entered into a democratic recession – where the quality of democracy is being reversed around the world. As the organisations responsible for running elections, election management bodies (EMBs) are at the fulcrum of the challenge of protecting democracy. This article introduces the special issue on ‘Safeguarding Election Management Bodies in the Age of Democratic Recession’ which aims to consider the emerging challenges that EMBs are facing, and how they can be best equipped to respond to them. It begins by defining some characteristics of a democratic recession and mapping global trends in democratic quality. It charts global trends in election quality and maps variation in the quality of electoral management worldwide. The article then considers the implications of a democratic recession for EMBs and how international and regional organisations have sought to address these problems. Finally, it introduces articles in the special issue.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)323-336
Number of pages14
JournalSouth African Journal of International Affairs
Issue number3
Early online date15 Nov 2023
Publication statusPublished - 29 Nov 2023


  • democracy
  • development
  • elections
  • electoral integrity
  • justice
  • security
  • Democracy
  • democratic backsliding
  • democratisation

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