Note: Access to data available under the contact heading below. If you use the NELDA data, please cite the following article: Susan D. Hyde and Nikolay Marinov, 2012, Which Elections Can Be Lost?, Political Analysis, 20(2), 191-201.
The codebook is available here in .pdf format.
The National Elections across Democracy and Autocracy (NELDA) dataset provides detailed information on all election events from 1960-2006. To be included, elections must be for a national executive figure, such as a president, or for a national legislative body, such as a parliament, legislature, constituent assembly, or other directly elected representative bodies. In order for an election to be included, voters must directly elect the person or persons appearing on the ballot to the national post in question. Voting must also be direct, or "by the people" in the sense that mass voting takes place. That voting is "by the people" does not imply anything about the extent of the franchise: some regimes may construe this to mean a small portion of the population. However, when voting takes place by committee, institution or a coterie, the "election" is not included. By-elections are not counted as elections for the purpose of this project, unless they take the form of midterm elections occurring within a pre-established schedule. In federal systems, only elections to national-level bodies are included. Cases in which any portion of the seats in a national legislative body are filled through voting are included.
Beyond these basic requirements, elections may or may not be competitive, and may have any number of other ostensible flaws. In fact, this last feature of the dataset is what separates NELDA most clearly from other available datasets on elections.
The unit of observation is the election round. All rounds of an election are coded, regardless of the number of seats remaining to be filled. In the 1994 Ukrainian legislative elections, six rounds were held, with fewer than 10% of the legislative seats up for grabs after 4 rounds of balloting- all six rounds appear in the dataset.
When deciding what counts as a new election, and what is a follow-up round to an election already underway, we ask (1) whether the regime calls the election a new one; (2) whether candidates are allowed and/or required to register again. Positive answers imply a new election. By this rule, the rerun of the second round of the Ukrainian Presidential election of 2004 counts as a third round: the set of continuing candidates was based on rounds one and two. In contrast, when the results of the November 2, 2003 legislative election in Georgia were cancelled, the legislative election of March of the following year is coded as a new election: new registration lists and candidates were allowed.
Indirect elections are not included. Thus, in the 1983 presidential election in the Arab Republic of Yemen, the President was re-elected for a second 5-year term at a meeting of the Constituent People's Assembly - causing us to drop this election. We do not include Chinese legislative elections because the people do not directly vote on deputies. However, presidential elections which involve an electoral college such as those in the U.S. and South Korea are included because the electoral college mechanically implements the outcome of a popular vote. An example of a special case is the 1970 presidential election in Chile, where the legislature elected Salvador Allende to the presidency after he won a plurality of the popular vote. The Chilean constitution required that if no candidate won a majority of the popular vote, the legislature would select between the top two vote-getting candidates, and tradition dictated that the legislature would select the candidate who received the largest number of votes. The 1970 Chilean election is included because a popular vote took place, and the indirect election within the legislature was determined by the popular vote. Another borderline case is Kenya in the 1970s, where voters cast a ballot for a deputy to parliament knowing that each deputy supports a particular presidential candidate, and that the presidential candidate supported by a majority of elected parliamentarians would be confirmed as president. We counted this peculiar system as a direct election of both the President and the legislature, and we code the two as two separate events (in part, to distinguish the different choices voters may have had with respect to the lists of parliamentary and presidential candidates.)
Most referenda are not included as elections, with one important exception. Some referenda on continued rule are functionally equivalent to presidential elections in single-party regimes, which are included in this study. Therefore, we include referenda when they are direct votes on candidates, most commonly referenda that ask voters whether they would like the incumbent to continue in office or not. If any referendum is a direct vote on the incumbent candidate's continued rule, it is included as an election. The 1988 referendum on the continued rule of Augusto Pinochet, therefore, counts as an election. Referenda that extend a leader's term in office but that are not leader-specific are not included as national elections. For example, we do not include constitutional referenda that change the length of term limits or that make some parties illegal. Thus, although there was a referendum on a new constitution in Equatorial Guinea on August 15, 1982 that also provided for an extension of the President's term in office, the event was not counted as a direct election in the NELDA data.
Sometimes, elections are cancelled immediately before, during or after election day. We include elections if and only if voting on election day has, in fact, commenced. This decision rule holds regardless of whether the balloting was not completed or was eventually cancelled, whether the results were never announced, or whether there were no "consequences" from the voting (such as a power succession).
At present, all independent countries with a population above half a million are covered, with the exception of Western countries (this excludes almost exactly the set of members of the OECD), from 1960 to 2006. See the countries covered section below.
Contact and Data Access
Version 3 of the NELDA dataset is now available, including 1945-2010. The updated data include all developed democracies. Users of Version 1 or Version 2 should be aware that a number of corrections were incorporated into Version 3.
The data is currently available with Presidential, Legislative, and Constituent Assembly elections coded as separate observations, even when they occur on the same day. Many researchers may want to collapse the data into observations in which all same-day national elections are treated as combined observations. A Stata .do file that collapses the data into single day election events is available for download with the data.
A link to the NELDA data download form is here, or embedded below.
For questions, please contact either Susan Hyde (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Nikolay Marinov (email@example.com).
The list of countries covered follows Gleditsch and Ward's List of Independent States. All states in existence for any period between 1945 and 2006 are included. The full list of countries included and years covered is provided in the codebook. Micro-states are excluded, and are defined as those countries with a population < 500,000 citizens in the year of the election. Coverage dates follow each included country, and if the beginning year is not 1945, it is equal to the country's year of independence.
Primary sources used to code NELDA variables include those listed below, although other sources were used when required, such as detailed case histories of specific countries. In some cases our data conflict with existing data on elections, and we have made extensive efforts to uncover sources of disagreement and ensure consistent coding.
Elections in Africa: a data handbook , edited by Dieter Nohlen, Michael Krennerich, and Bernhard Thibaut (Available electronically through University library).
Elections in Asia and the Pacific: a data handbook. Volume I, Middle East, Central Asia, and South Asia edited by Dieter Nohlen, Florian Grotz, and Christof Hartmann (Available electronically through University library).
Elections in Asia and the Pacific: a data handbook. Volume I, Middle East, Central Asia, and South Asia, edited by Dieter Nohlen, Florian Grotz, and Christof Hartmann (Available electronically through University library).
Elections in Asia and the Pacific: a data handbook. Volume II, South East Asia, East Asia, and the South Pacific , edited by Dieter Nohlen, Florian Grotz, and Christof Hartmann (Available electronically through University library).
Elections in the Americas: a data handbook edited by Dieter Nohlen (two volumes, hard copy only).
Inter-Parliamentary Union. Chronicle of Parliamentary Elections. Covers legislative elections and electoral developments. Printed edition 1966-present, limited availability online.
Variables and Codebook
In addition to basic attributes, there are 58 variables coded for each electionid. Please see the codebook for detailed descriptions of the variables. For all but three of the 58 variables, there are only four possible values: "yes", "no", "N/A", "unclear." Answering "unclear" means there is not enough information to answer the question, either because sources are unavailable, sparse, or the available information seems to conflict in ways that undermine both "yes" and "no" answers. "N/A" represents not applicable, and is used when the question does not make sense given the context of the election event, such as asking whether the incumbent won when the incumbent did not run. The 58 variables are labeled numerically as "NELDA1", "NELDA2", "NELDA2", and so on. For each variable, there is another associated variable allowing a free-text note clarifying the coding decision, with the note clarifying the variable NELDA1 named "NELDAn1".
Only three variables allow for free-text answers: NELDA43, NELDA44, and NELDA54.
In multiple round elections, results from the very last round of that election are never coded in an previous round's variables. The variables coded for each election round should reflect only the status of the election at the point of that particular round. For example: NELDA39, "Was the incumbent replaced?" should reflect the status of the incumbent at the end of that particular round, not whether the incumbent was replaced in subsequent rounds. Thus, the answer is usually "no" until last round of the election unless the incumbent has been formally succeeded by someone else at the conclusion of a non-final round. Some attributes will not change between rounds and will be the same for all rounds. For example, in elections in which the government harasses the opposition, this variable is unlikely to change significantly between rounds, but the coding rules allow for this possibility.
- ccode refers to the three digit country code assigned by Gleditsch & Ward's List of Independent States.
- cname gives the name of the country
- Unique for every observation in the dataset, electionid is the 16-character variable that identifies each election event by country, date, type, and round. It has four subcomponents, separated by a dash (-), defined as XXX-YYYY-MMDD-TR, where "XXX" represents the COW three digit country code, "YYYY" represents the year in which voting started for the entire election event, including all rounds, "MMDD" represents the month and day that the election event started, and does not change for multiple round elections. Note that for election events with two or more rounds, the MMDD and year remain the same as those of the first round. "TR" denotes a letter-number combination, with T representing the type of national office being elected, and "R" represents the round number, with "1" representing the first round, "2" representing the second round, etc. The letter 'P' stands for presidential elections, 'L' stands for legislative or parliamentary elections, and 'A' stands for constituent assembly elections.
For example, for electionids 100-1990-0311-A1 and 100-1990-0311-A2, the number 100 identifies the country as Colombia, the first day of the election event was March 11, 1990, the 'A' indicates that it was an election for constitutent assembly, and the final digit indicates that it had two rounds. The day of voting for the first round took place on March 11, 1990, but note that the date of the second round cannot be extracted from the electionid variable (see the variable mmdd below).
In election events spanning multiple days, we take the first day of voting as the month and day for the electionid. For example, the 1985 election in Burma began on October 6 and ended on October 20. The electionid as 775-1985-1006-L1, indicating that the first day of voting was October 6th.
Note that data can be collapsed in various ways using the electionid variable, depending on which format is most appropriate for the research question. Common formats may include combining same-day election events into one observation, combining multiple rounds into one election event, or collapsing the data into country-year format.
- year indicates the year in which the election round took place
- type codes the type of election that took place. All elections in this dataset are for national offices, including Presidential, Legislative, and Parliamentary (the last two are often referred to as Legislative), and Constituent Assembly. Some researchers may want to combine same-day legislative and executive elections, which are referred to as General Elections. However, in the base dataset, even when executive and legislative elections occur on the same date, they are coded as two separate events, allowing variation in coding for specific national offices.
- mmdd provides the month and day on which each election round took place. For first round elections mmdd and year are redundant to the information provided in the electionid. For elections with two or more rounds, year and mmdd provide the actual date that voting starting for the round of the election.
- notes is a free text field allowing for general remarks on the election being coded. Examples of such notes include "massive human rights abuses" and "first election in 20 years."
- Were regular elections suspended before this election?
- Were these the first multiparty elections?
- Was opposition allowed?
- Was more than one party legal?
- Was there a choice of candidates on the ballot?
- If regular, were these elections early or late relative to the date they were supposed to be held per established procedure?
- Before elections, were there clear indications that the incumbent had made a prior decision to give up power?
- Did the incumbent reach their term limit?
- Had the incumbent extended his or her term in office or eligibility to run in elections at any point in the past?
- Was the country ruled by "transitional leadership" tasked with "holding elections?"
- Before elections, are there significant concerns that elections will not be free and fair?
- Was the incumbent or ruling party confident of victory before elections?
- Were opposition leaders prevented from running?
- Did some opposition leaders boycott the election?
- Is there evidence that the government harassed the opposition?
- In the run-up to the election, were there allegations of media bias in favor of the incumbent?
- Is economic growth in country said to be good?
- Is country said to be in an economic crisis?
- Is country said to be a large recipient of outside economic aid?
- Was the office of the incumbent leader contested in this election?
- Did the incumbent run?
- If no (NELDA21): was there a chosen successor?
- If yes (NELDA22): did a successor assume power as a result of the elections?
- Did the incumbent's party lose?
- Were there reliable polls that indicated popularity of ruling political party or of the candidates for office before elections?
- If yes (NELDA25): were they favorable for the incumbent?
- Was the vote count a gain for the opposition?
- Is there evidence that reports critical of the government's handling of the election reached large numbers of people?
- Were there riots and protests after the election?
- If yes (NELDA29): did they involve allegations of vote fraud?
- If yes (NELDA29): did the government use violence against demonstrators?
- Were results that did not favor the incumbent cancelled?
- Was there significant violence involving civilian deaths immediately before, during, or after the election?
- Were results that were favorable to the incumbent cancelled?
- If yes (NELDA34): was this in part a result of wide-spread protests?
- If yes (NELDA34): was this in part a result of outside pressure?
- If yes (NELDA34), was a new election held?
- If yes (NELDA37), did victory go to a different party or candidate than at the "initial" stage?
- Was the incumbent replaced?
- If yes (NELDA39), did the leader step down because the vote count gave victory to some other political actor?
- If yes (NELDA39), was the leader replaced as a result of widespread protests?
- If yes (NELDA39), was there a coup that prevented the elected leader from taking office?
- What was the name of the leader who was in office before the election?
- What was the name leader who was in office after the election?
- Were international monitors present?
- If yes (NELDA45), were Western monitors present? If NELDA45 is coded as "no" this is coded as "N/A."
- If yes (NELDA46), were there allegations by Western monitors of significant vote-fraud? If NELDA46 is coded as "no," this is coded "N/A."
- Were some monitors denied the opportunity to be present by the government holding elections?
- Did any monitors refuse to go to an election because they believed that it would not be free and fair?
- Is country said to be in good relations with US before the elections?
- If yes (NELDA50), is there a negative change in relations with the US after the election?
- If yes (NELDA50), is there a positive change in relations with the US after the election?
- Is the country said to have a substantial economic, military or political relationship with a Western country or IGO?
- If yes (NELDA53), which one?
- Is there a negative change in the country's economic, military or political relationship with a Western country or IGO after the election?
- Is there a positive change in the country's economic, military or political relationship with a Western country or IGO after the election?
- Is aid cut-off, or threatened to be cut-off, by an outside actor at any point before or after the election?
- Did an outside actor attempt to influence the outcome of the election by making threats to withhold, or by withholding, something of value to the country?
Research funded by generous support from Yale University, the MacMillan Center for International and Area Studies, and the Institute for Social and Policy Studies.
National Elections Across Democracy and Autocracy
& , Department of Political Science, Yale University