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Show election

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Title: Show election  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Electoral fraud, People's Parliament, 1940 Soviet ultimatum to Lithuania, By-election, Fixed-term election
Collection: Electoral Fraud, Voter Suppression
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Show election

A show election, also known as a sham election or rubber stamp election, is an election that is held purely for show, that is, without any significant political purpose.

Show elections are a common event in dictatorial regimes that still feel the need to establish some element of public legitimacy. Results predictably show nearly 100% voter turnout and implausibly high support (close to 100 percent in many cases) for the prescribed candidate(s) or for referendums that favor the political party in power. Dictatorial regimes can also undertake show elections with the result numbers simulating those usually watched in democratic countries. This can be done in order to achieve the look of democracy and legitimacy while preserving dictatorial powers.


  • Examples 1
  • Coercion 2
  • Landslide victory 3
  • References 4


Examples of such elections include State of Vietnam referendum, 1955), or some combination. In an extreme example Charles D. B. King of Liberia claimed he received 243,000 votes in the 1927 general election, which exceeded the number of eligible voters over 15 times.


Ballots in a show election may contain only one "yes" option. In case of a simple "yes or no" question, people who pick "no" are often persecuted, thus making the "yes" choice the only option (false dilemma). An example of this is the election of the People's Parliaments in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania in 1940 shortly after the Soviet occupation of the Baltic states; those who voted received stamps in their passport for voting and those who did not vote did not receive stamps and were persecuted as an enemy of the people.[1]

In some cases, show elections can backfire against the party in power, especially if the regime believe they are popular enough to win without coercion or fraud. See, for example, the Burmese general election, 1990.

Landslide victory

Show election is not to be confused with elections with a landslide victory where the latter, while the winner of the election is won by a significant margin, is still a legitimate election and not for show. (It happened twice in Canada that a political party won all seats in a provincial election, resulting in a legislature without an opposition party.)


  1. ^ "RUSSIA: Justice in the Baltic". Time Magazine U.S. 1940-08-19. Retrieved 2012-05-23. 
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