Show election

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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 choice.

Show elections are a common event in dictatorial regimes that feel the need to establish some element of public legitimacy. Published results usually show nearly 100% voter turnout and implausibly high support (close to 100% in many cases) for the prescribed candidate(s) or for the referendum choice that favors the political party in power. Dictatorial regimes can also organise show elections with results simulating those that might be achieved in democratic countries.


Examples of such elections are Elections in Fascist Italy in 1929 and 1934, elections in Nazi Germany, most Communist states (East Germany, the Soviet Union, China, North Korea, etc.), Baathist Iraq and Islamic Republic of Iran. A predetermined conclusion is always established by the regime, either through suppression of the opposition, coercion of voters, vote rigging, forged number of "votes received" (e.g. the 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.[citation needed]


Ballots in a show election may contain only one "yes" option. In the 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 elections 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 believes they are popular enough to win without coercion or fraud. See, for example, the Burmese general election, 1990.

Landslide victory

A show election is not to be confused with elections with a landslide victory. Sometimes a legitimate and fair election may result in a landslide victory, in which the election is won by an overwhelming margin. (It happened twice in Canada that a political party won all the 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.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>