American policymakers love to see purple thumbs in the developing world, especially in countries in which the United States has undertaken “nation-building” projects (read: invasions and occupations). The recent Afghan parliamentary elections are a case in point. Yet elections in the developing world are not usually what they are cracked up to be and can be downright destabilizing.
Many despots in the developing world have realized that the United States is obsessed with exporting democracy to the world (at least on a theoretical basis until U.S. government interests require the overthrow of democratically elected leaders in favor of more pliant puppets – such as in Iran, Guatemala, the Dominican Republic, and Chile). So modern-day autocrats are sophisticated enough to conduct slanted plebiscites that will allow them to show the international media and the U.S. government that they have been “elected.” And as long as such authoritarian regimes’ policies don’t deviate too much from what the United States wants – as they have in Iran, Syria, North Korea, and Saddam Hussein’s Iraq – the “elected” dictators will be left alone.