Foreign electoral intervention

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Foreign electoral interventions are attempts by governments, covertly or overtly, to influence elections in another country.

Theoretical and empirical research on the effect of foreign electoral intervention had been characterized as weak overall as late as 2011; however, since then a number of such studies have been conducted.[1] One study indicated that the country intervening in most foreign elections is the United States with 81 interventions, followed by Russia (including the former Soviet Union) with 36 interventions from 1946 to 2000—an average of once in every nine competitive elections.[2][3][4][5]

Academic studies[edit]

Measurement of interventions[edit]

A 2019 study by Lührmann et al. at the Varieties of Democracy Institute in Sweden summarized reports from each country to say that in 2018 the most intense interventions, by means of false information on key political issues, were by China in Taiwan and by Russia in Latvia; the next highest levels were in Bahrain, Qatar and Hungary; the lowest levels were in Trinidad and Tobago, Switzerland and Uruguay.[6] [7] [8]

A 2016 study by Dov H. Levin found that, among 938 global elections examined,[a] the United States and Russia (including its predecessor, the Soviet Union) combined had involved themselves in about one out of nine (117), with the majority of those (68%) being through covert, rather than overt, actions. The same study found that "on average, an electoral intervention in favor of one side contesting the election will increase its vote share by about 3 percent," an effect large enough to have potentially changed the results in seven out of 14 U.S. presidential elections occurring after 1960.[3][b][c] According to the study, the U.S. intervened in 81 foreign elections between 1946 and 2000, while the Soviet Union or Russia intervened in 36.[3][12] A 2018 study by Levin found that the electoral interventions determined in "many cases" the identity of the winner.[13] The study also found suggestive evidence that the interventions increased the risk of democratic breakdown in the targeted states.[13]

Typologies of interventions[edit]

In a 2012 study, Corstange and Marinov theorized that there are two types of foreign intervention:[9] partisan intervention, where the foreign power takes a stance on its support for one side, and process intervention, where the foreign power seeks "to support the rules of democratic contestation, irrespective of who wins". Their results from 1,703 participants found that partisan interventions had a polarizing effect on political and foreign relations views, with the side favored by the external power more likely to favor improvements in relations between the two, and having the converse effect for those opposed by the power.

In 2018, Jonathan Godinez further elaborated on Corstange and Marinov's theory by proposing that interventions can be specified as globally-motivated intervention, where "a country intervenes in the election of another country for the interests, betterment, or well-being of the international audience," and self-motivated intervention, where "a country intervenes in the election of another country to further the interests, betterment, or well-being of themselves."[14]

Godinez further theorized that the vested interest of an intervening country can be identified by examining a "threefold methodology": the tactics of intervention, stated motivation, and the magnitude of the intervention.[14]

Also in 2012, Shulman and Bloom theorized a number of distinct factors affecting the results of foreign interference:[1]

  • Agents of interference: each with a descending effect on resentment caused by their intervention, these being nations, international organizations, non-governmental organizations, and finally individuals.
  • Partisanship of interference: whether foreign actors intervene to affect institutions and process broadly, or intervene primarily to favor one side in a contest
  • Salience of interference: consisting of two elements. First, "how obvious and well-known is the interference", and second, "how clear and understandable is the intervention?"

Additionally, they theorized that national similarities between the foreign and domestic powers would decrease resentment, and may even render the interference welcome. In cases where national autonomy are of primary concern to the electorate, they predicted a diminished effect of the similarity or dissimilarity of the two powers on resentment. Conversely, they predicted that in cases where national identity was a primary concern, the importance of similarity or dissimilarity would have a greater impact.

Impact of interventions[edit]

According to a 2020 study, Americans "are more likely to condemn foreign involvement, lose faith in democracy, and seek retaliation when a foreign power sides with the opposition, than when a foreign power aids their own party. At the same time, Americans reject military responses to electoral attacks on the United States, even when their own political party is targeted."[15]

Bolivian election (by United States, 2002)[edit]

In the Bolivian elections of 2002, the U.S., which had been financing the eradication of coca farms, instructed Ambassador Manuel Rocha to warn Bolivians against voting for socialist candidate Evo Morales, stating that doing so could "jeopardize American assistance and investment."[16] USAID also create the "political party reform project" in Bolivia in 2002, whose aim was to "help build moderate, pro-democracy political parties that can serve as a counterweight to the radical MAS or its successors".[17] The move largely backfired, increasing support for Morales, who finished second in the election. Morales would ultimately be elected president of Bolivia in 2006.[18]

Chilean elections[edit]

Chilean workers marching in support of Allende in 1964.

1964 election (by United States and Soviet Union)[edit]

Between 1960 and 1969, the Soviet government funded the Communist Party of Chile at a rate of between $50,000 and $400,000 annually.[11]:32 In the 1964 Chilean elections the U.S. government supplied $2.6 million in funding for candidate Eduardo Frei Montalva, whose opponent, Salvador Allende was a prominent Marxist, as well as additional funding with the intention of harming Allende's reputation.[19]:38–9 As Kristian Gustafson phrased the situation:

It was clear the Soviet Union was operating in Chile to ensure Marxist success, and from the contemporary American point of view, the United States was required to thwart this enemy influence: Soviet money and influence were clearly going into Chile to undermine its democracy, so U.S. funding would have to go into Chile to frustrate that pernicious influence.[11]:33

The U.S. involvement was later revealed by the Church Committee in 1975.[20]

1970 election (by United States)[edit]

According to information released as part of the findings of the Church Committee, the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency supported the kidnapping of the Chilean Army Commander-in-Chief General René Schneider in an attempt to prevent the congressional confirmation of Salvador Allende. The attempt failed and Schneider was shot in the process. He died three days later from his wounds.[21] Thereafter, the U.S. continued a vigorous overt and covert campaign to undermine Allende's Presidency, which may have created the conditions for Allende's overthrow in a violent coup, although the U.S. was not directly implicated in the coup.[22] American official Henry Kissinger was quoted by Newsweek in 1974 saying this about Chile: "I don't see why we have to let a country go communist due to the irresponsibility of its own people".[23]

Danish elections (by Soviet Union, 1973-75)[edit]

The USSR covertly funded the Communist Party of Denmark in the 1973 and 1975 elections.[24]

DRC election (by Soviet Union, 1960)[edit]

The Soviet Union covertly supported Patrice Lumumba in the 1960 Belgian Congo general election.[24]

French elections[edit]

2017 election (by Russia)[edit]

The 2017 Macron e-mail leaks were leaks of more than 20,000 e-mails related to the campaign of Emmanuel Macron during the 2017 French presidential elections, two days before the final vote. The leaks garnered an abundance of media attention due to how quickly news of the leak spread throughout the Internet, aided in large part by bots and spammers[25] and drew accusations that the government of Russia under Vladimir Putin was responsible. The e-mails were shared by WikiLeaks and several American alt-right activists[26] through social media sites like Twitter, Facebook, and 4chan.[27]

2007 election (by Libya)[edit]

According to French newspaper Mediapart, Nicolas Sarkozy's presidential campaign received 50 million Euros in donations from the Libyan leader, colonel Muammar Gaddafi, which is over twice the French limit for individual campaign donations of 22 million Euros.[28][29] After Sarkozy's victory, Gaddafi went on a 5-day state visit to France, during which the Libyan government purchased military equipment, including 14 Rafale fighter jets.[30] Ziad Takieddine, a French-Lebanese businessman with close ties to Libya, admitted to Mediapart that he had made three trips from Tripoli to France to deliver suitcases filled with 200 and 500 euro notes to Sarkozy. After the election, Gaddafi was invited. In March 2018, Sarkozy was held in custody over these allegations. He was interrogated for 25 hours by the police, during which he denied any wrongdoing, before being released under special judicial supervision.[31]

German election (by Turkey, 2017)[edit]

In August 2017, Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan called for all his "countrymen" in Germany to vote against the CDU/CSU, the SPD and the Green Party in the upcoming German federal election. Erdoğan called these parties, as well as German Chancellor Angela Merkel, "enemies of Turkey".[citation needed] Merkel condemned these statements, and responded that all Germans had to right to vote freely without foreign meddling in the electoral process. German foreign minister Sigmar Gabriel affirmed Erdoğan's segments were an "unprecedented act of interference in the sovereignty of our country."[32] There are at least 4 million people of Turkish origin in Germany, most of whom customarily align with the SPD or the Green Party politically.[33]

Guinean election (by France, 2010)[edit]

Vincent Bolloré, a French billionaire close to then-French president Nicolas Sarkozy, allegedly gave financial support to presidential candidate Alpha Condé in the 2010 Guinean presidential election. He is suspected of having offered Condé discount on advertisements from his ad agency, which he didn't equally offer to his opponent Cellou Dalein Diallo. Condé went on to become Guinean president and gave Bolloré's company port concessions. Bolloré formally denies any wrongdoing.[34]

Indonesian election (by United States, 1955)[edit]

The CIA covertly gave a million dollars to centrist political parties to cut support for Sukarno and the Communist Party of Indonesia during the 1955 legislative election.[35]

Iranian election (by United States, 1952)[edit]

Historian Ervand Abrahamian, in an interview with Democracy Now!, said U.S. State Department documents declassified in 2017 reveal that the U.S. strategy was to undermine Mohammad Mosaddegh through parliament and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) spent lot of money to get their 18 favorable candidates elected.[36]

Israeli elections[edit]

2016 election (by United States)[edit]

During the administration of President Barack Obama, the U.S. State Department sent nearly $350,000 to an Israeli non-profit organization, OneVoice. Allegations arose claiming the funds were intended to try to oust Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu[37] in favor of Isaac Herzog and Tzipi Livni.

The State Department did give a grant to OneVoice. $233,500 went to OneVoice Israel, and $115,776 went to OneVoice Palestine. The goal of this non-profit organization is to encourage a two state solution, and the grant money was intended to fund local activists promoting such a solution in both Israel itself, and in Palestine. Palestinians cannot vote in Israeli elections, therefore at best $233,550 could have been spent on Israeli election interference. The grant money was spent by November 2014, before Netanyahu announced new elections, however. In addition, at the time Netanyahu had been in support of a two state solution. The Obama administration did view a two state solution as a priority in Israel [38]

In early 2015, OneVoice partnered with a new organization, V15, which had the stated aim of "disrupting the status quo" and putting a center left government in power. Netanyahu was not the specific target, but the effect was the same. V15 wanted a new government to negotiate a two state solution, and mobilized voters in an effort to bring that about. V15 was advised by a former Obama campaign strategist, however it is unclear that the Obama administration had any direct or indirect role in affecting the outcome of the 2015 Israeli election. Netanyahu was reelected.[38]

1996 election (by United States)[edit]

U.S. President Bill Clinton later acknowledged that, in the wake of the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, Clinton interfered on behalf of Shimon Peres against Benjamin Netanyahu. Clinton later said that he "tried to do it in a way that didn't overtly involve me".[39]

Italian election (by United States, Soviet Union, and Vatican, 1948)[edit]

In the 1948 Italian elections the administration of Harry Truman, allied with the Roman Catholic Church, funneled millions of dollars in funding to the Christian Democracy party and other parties through the War Powers Act of 1941 in addition to supplying military advisers, in an effort to prevent an election victory for the Popular Democratic Front (FDP), a united front comprising the Italian Socialist Party (PSI) and the Italian Communist Party (PCI), both of which had played key roles in the wartime resistance movement. At the advice of Walter Dowling, the U.S. also invited Prime Minister Alcide De Gasperi on an official visit and made a number of related economic concessions.[40][41]:107–8

Conversely, the Soviet Union funneled as much as $10 million monthly to the communists and leveraged its influence on Italian companies via contracts to support them.[42] However, many of their efforts were ad hoc in comparison, and the Christian Democrats eventually won in a landslide.[41]:108–9

Japanese elections (by United States, 1950s–60s)[edit]

The Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) of Japan received secret American funds during the 1950s and 1960s.[4] This was justified by U.S. Ambassador to Japan Douglas MacArthur II when he said, "the Socialists in Japan had their own secret funds from Moscow", and funding the LDP helped to "project American power".[43]

Korean election (by United Nations, Soviet Union, 1948)[edit]

The 1948 Korean elections were overseen primarily by the United Nations Temporary Commission on Korea, or UNTCOK. The United States planned to hold separate elections in the south of the peninsula, a plan which was opposed by Australia, Canada and Syria as members of the commission.[44] According to Gordenker, the commission acted:

in such a way as to affect the controlling political decisions regarding elections in Korea. Moreover, UNTCOK deliberately and directly took a hand in the conduct of the 1948 election.[45]

Conversely the Soviet Union forbade such elections in the north of the peninsula all together.[46] Faced with this, UNTCOK eventually recommended the election take place only in the south, but that the results would be binding on all of Korea.[46]

Mauritian election (by United States, 1982)[edit]

The CIA covertly gave financial support to Seewoosagur Ramgoolam in the 1982 general election in an attempt to oust Anerood Jugnath and the Mauritian Militant Movement-Mauritian Socialist Party alliance.[24]

Mongolian election (by United States, 1996)[edit]

During the 1996 Mongolian election, that National Endowment for Democracy helped unite several political parties, intellectuals, businessmen, students and other activists into a to Democratic Union Coalition and then trained them in grassroots campaigning and membership recruiting. They also assisted in distributing 350,000 copies of a manifesto calling for private property rights, a free press and foreign investment to help convince people to vote out the Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party.[47]

Nepalese election (by United States, 1959)[edit]

The CIA covertly assisted B.P. Koirala and the Nepalese Congress in winning the 1959 election.[24]

Palestinian election (by United States, Israel, 2006)[edit]

During the 2006 Palestinian elections, Israel hoped that Fatah would prevail over Hamas, the latter being a Sunni-Islamic fundamentalist organization. Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon wanted to halt the elections if Hamas ran candidates. However, U.S. President George W. Bush objected to such election interference, and Hamas won, despite millions of clandestine dollars flowing from the Bush administration to Fatah during the closing weeks of the campaign.[48] Then-Senator Hillary Clinton commented at the time: "we should have made sure that we did something to determine who was going to win."[49]

Polish election (by Soviet Union, 1947)[edit]

Although the agreements at the Yalta Conference called for "free and unfettered" elections in Poland,[50] the Kremlin and the PPR had no intention of permitting an honest election. Soviet leader Joseph Stalin was well aware that if Poland held a free election, it would result in an anti-Soviet government.[51] Electoral laws introduced before the elections allowed the government – which since its establishment in 1944 by the Polish Committee of National Liberation had been dominated by the Communists – to remove 409,326 people from the electoral rolls.[52] The 1947 election (along with the previous 1946 referendum) was organized and closely monitored by UB (secret police) specialists, who worked closely with their Soviet counterparts like Aron Pałkin and Siemion Dawydow, both high-ranking officers from the Soviet MGB.[52] In some regions, over 40% of the members of the electoral commissions who were supposed to monitor the voting were recruited by the UB.[52] Bolesław Bierut, head of the provisional Polish parliament (State National Council) and acting president, asked for Soviet assistance in the election.[53]

Philippines election (by United States, 1953)[edit]

The United States Government, including the Central Intelligence Agency, had a strong influence on the 1953 elections, and candidates in the election fiercely competed with each other for U.S. support.[54] CIA agent Edward Lansdale purportedly ran the successful 1953 presidential campaign of Ramon Magsaysay.[4][55]

Russian election (by United States, 1996)[edit]

The first Russian president Boris Yeltsin won his second term in the 1996 presidential elections

A team of private US citizens, campaign experts organized by Felix Braynin, provided assistance to the Yeltsin campaign.[56] The team consisted of Steven Moore, Joe Shumate, George Gorton and Richard Dresner, who worked in Russia four months and received $250,000, plus payment of all costs and unlimited budget to conduct surveys and other activities.[57]

Simultaneously the US administration ensured a US$10.2 billion IMF loan to Russia[58] to keep the national economy and pro-Western liberal government afloat.[59] The loan funds were fraudulently misused by Yeltsin's inner circle, and the IMF knowingly turned a blind eye to these facts.[60] Although the aggressive pro-Yeltsin campaign boosted his approval rate from an initial 6%[61] to the 35% that he got during the first round of elections, and later made him win the second round against the Communist competitor, Gennady Zyuganov, with 54% to 41%, there were wide speculations that the official results were rigged.[62]

Sri Lankan election (by India, 2015)[edit]

It was alleged that the Indian foreign intelligence agency had played a role in uniting the Sri Lankan opposition, to bring about the defeat of Mahinda Rajapaksa. There had been growing concern in the Indian government, on the increasing influence of economic and military rival China in Sri Lankan affairs. Rajapaksa further upped the ante by allowing 2 Chinese submarines to dock in 2014, without informing India, in spite of a stand still agreement to this effect between India and Sri Lanka. The growing Chinese tilt of Rajapaksa was viewed by India with unease. Further, it was alleged, that a RAW agent, helped coordination of talks within the opposition, and convincing former PM Ranil Wickremasinghe not to stand against Rajapaksa, but to choose a common opposition candidate, who had better chances of winning. The agent is also alleged to have been in touch with Chandrika Kumaratunga, who played a key role in convincing Maithripala Sirisena to be the common candidate.[63]

Republic of China election (by Mainland China, 2018)[edit]

The Republic of China’s leaders, including President Tsai Ing-wen and Premier William Lai, have repeatedly accused the People’s Republic of China of spreading fake news via social media to influence voters and support candidates more sympathetic to Beijing ahead of the 2018 Taiwanese local elections.[64][65][66] Chinese defector Wang Liqiang claimed he had been instructed to interfere in Taiwan’s 2018 midterm elections as well as the upcoming race. “The story was not as shocking in Taiwan as it was in other parts of the world,” said Lev Nachman, a PhD candidate at the University of California, Irvine, studying social movements and focusing on Taiwan. “It is not news to Taiwanese people that China has been co-opting local organisations for political influence.”[67]

Togolese election (by France, 2010)[edit]

Vincent Bolloré, a French billionaire close to then-French president Nicolas Sarkozy, allegedly gave financial support to presidential candidate Faure Gnassingbé in the 2010 Togolese presidential election. He is accused of having offered a Gnassingbé discount on advertisements from his ad agency, which he failed to offer to his opponent, Jean-Pierre Fabre. Gnassingbé went on to becomebtll the Togolese president and gave port concessions to Bolloré's company. Bolloré formally denies any wrongdoing.[34]

Ukrainian elections[edit]

2014 election (by Russia)[edit]

Pro-Russian hackers launched a series of cyberattacks over several days to disrupt the May 2014 Ukrainian presidential election, releasing hacked emails, attempting to alter vote tallies, and delaying the final result with distributed denial-of-service attacks.[68][69] Malware that would have displayed a graphic declaring far-right candidate Dmytro Yarosh the electoral winner was removed from Ukraine's Central Election Commission less than an hour before polls closed. Despite this, Channel One Russia "reported that Mr. Yarosh had won and broadcast the fake graphic, citing the election commission's website, even though it had never appeared there."[68][70] According to Peter Ordeshook: "These faked results were geared for a specific audience in order to feed the Russian narrative that has claimed from the start that ultra-nationalists and Nazis were behind the revolution in Ukraine."[68]

2004 election (by Russia)[edit]

Round table talks with Ukrainian and foreign representatives during the Orange Revolution on 1 December in Kiev.

The Russian government publicly attempted to influence the 2004 Ukrainian presidential election.[1] Russian President Vladimir Putin gave public support for candidate Viktor Yanukovych and made public visits to Ukraine on his behalf. According to Kempe and Solonenko, "The overall interest of the Russian elite was to keep Ukraine as a reliable neighbor and partner." This was accomplished by channeling Russian funding and expertise directly into the campaign of Yanukovych or the government of Ukraine, in an effort described as "nakedly partisan".[1] Meanwhile, the U.S., Canada, Poland and Slovakia gave money to build political parties in Ukraine.[1]

United Kingdom elections[edit]

2019 Conservative Party leadership election (by Saudi Arabia)[edit]

Jeremy Hunt's donors include Ken Costa, investment banker with close ties to Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman.[71][72][73]

2016 Brexit referendum (by Russia, United States, Saudi Arabia)[edit]

Pro-EU protesters in Birmingham, September 2018

There is ongoing investigation[74] by the UK Electoral Commission, the UK Parliament's Culture Select Committee, and the US Senate, on alleged Russian interference in the "Brexit" poll of 23 June 2016.[75]

In May 2017, it was reported by the Irish Times that £425,622 had potentially been donated by sources in Saudi Arabia to the "vote leave" supporting Democratic Unionist Party for spending during the referendum.[76]

Some British politicians accused U.S. President Barack Obama of interfering in the Brexit vote by publicly stating his support for continued EU membership.[77]

United States elections[edit]

2020 (by Russia, Iran)[edit]

U.S. officials have accused Russia and Iran of trying to influence the 2020 United States elections.

On 13 February 2020, American intelligence officials advised members of the House Intelligence Committee that Russia was interfering in the 2020 election in an effort to get Trump re-elected.[78] While it is believed that China and Iran were supportive of the candidacy of Joe Biden, no active election interference by either country was reported.[79][80][81] Bloomberg News reported in January 2020 that American intelligence and law enforcement were examining whether Russia was involved in promoting disinformation to undermine Joe Biden as part of a campaign to disrupt the 2020 election.[citation needed] On 21 February 2020, The Washington Post reported that, according to unnamed US officials, Russia was interfering in the Democratic primary in an effort to support the nomination of Senator Bernie Sanders.[82]

On October 21, 2020, Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe said that Iran and Russia had obtained US voter registration data and that Iran had sent intimidating emails to voters under the name "Proud Boys," a far-right group.[83]

On 16 March 2021, a declassified intelligence report confirmed Russia's electoral interference in supporting Donald Trump's re-election bid, while Iran's electoral interference was at the same time attempting to hurt Trump.[84][85]

During his presidency, Trump had separately accused China of influencing the election. However, the report confirmed that China did not actually seek to influence the outcome of the election, and such claims were unsubstantiated.[86][87][88][89][90]

2018 (by Russia, China, Iran)[edit]

U.S. Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats accused Russia, China and Iran of trying to influence the 2018 United States elections.[91][92]

2016 (by Russia, Gulf states)[edit]

Interference in the 2016 election by entities connected to the Russian government was a scandal that dominated the news during the first half of the presidency of Donald Trump.

2016 election (by Russia)[edit]

In October 2016, the U.S. government accused Russia of interfering in the 2016 United States elections using a number of strategies including the hacking of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and leaking its documents to WikiLeaks, which then leaked them to the media.[93][94] Russia has denied any involvement.[95]

In response, on 29 December 2016, President Barack Obama expelled 35 Russian diplomats and broadened sanctions on Russian entities and individuals.[96]

In January 2017, following a British intelligence tip-off,[97][98] the U.S. Intelligence Community expressed "high confidence" that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign designed to interfere in the 2016 U.S. elections, undermine confidence in the U.S. democratic process, harm Secretary Hillary Clinton's chances, and help Donald Trump win.[99]

2016 election (by Ukraine)[edit]

Putin's Asymmetric Assault on Democracy in Russia and Europe: Implications for U.S. National Security

In July 2016, candidate Donald Trump was asked about the Russian annexation of Crimea from Ukraine.[100] Trump's statement indicating that he would recognize Crimea as Russian caused alarm in Ukraine, with the Ukrainian Ambassador to the USA Valeriy Chaly writing an article critical of Trump for breaking from the Republican party platform.[101] Other prominent Ukrainian politicians wrote highly critical social media posts, including former prime minister, Arseny Yatseniuk and interior minister Arsen Avakov.[102]

In August 2016, the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine and Ukrainian legislator Serhiy Leshchenko publicized ledgers alleging that Paul Manafort (Donald Trump's campaign manager) had received $12.7 million in illicit payments from Ukraine's pro-Russia Party of Regions. Manafort resigned from the Trump campaign shortly after. As part of Manafort's plea deal before his second trial in 2018, Manafort admitted to receiving over $60 million dollars from pro-Russia political groups for his work in Ukraine, laundering more than $30 million of it through foreign companies and bank accounts to hide it from the IRS, thereby avoiding liability for $15 million in taxes.[103]

While it has been claimed that Ukraine appeared "to strain diplomatic protocol dictating that governments refrain from engaging in one another’s elections",[104] there is no evidence of a top-down effort by Ukraine to influence the 2016 US Presidential Election.[105]

2016 election (by Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates)[edit]

Special counsel Robert Mueller investigated a meeting between Donald Trump Jr. and an emissary for two Gulf monarchies. In August 2016, Trump Jr. had a meeting with envoy representing Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince and de facto ruler Mohammad bin Salman and Abu Dhabi's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the de facto ruler of the United Arab Emirates. The envoy offered help to the Trump presidential campaign,[106] although it is unclear what form of help they provided to the Trump campaign if any.[107] The meeting included Lebanese-American businessman George Nader, Joel Zamel, an Israeli specialist in social media manipulation, and Blackwater founder Erik Prince.[108][106] Donald Trump also registered eight new businesses in Saudi Arabia during the election campaign.[109]

2016 election (by Israel)[edit]

According to The Times of Israel, Trump's longtime confidant Roger Stone "was in contact with one or more apparently well-connected Israelis at the height of the 2016 US presidential campaign, one of whom warned Stone that Trump was “going to be defeated unless we intervene” and promised “we have critical intell[sic].” The exchange between Stone and this Jerusalem-based contact appears in FBI documents made public".[110][111]

2012 election (by Israel)[edit]

In 2012, former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert claimed that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tried to undermine President Barack Obama in favor of Republican candidate Mitt Romney.[112] Former Prime Minister Ehud Barak said that the interference cost Israel aid.[113] Netanyahu has denied that.[114] The accusations included claims that Obama had deliberately snubbed Netanyahu, and another implied that an appearance in a television advertisement was designed by Netanyahu to give support to Romney.[115]

1996 election (by China)[edit]

Bill Clinton and Jiang Zemin holding a joint press conference at the White House in October 1997

In February 1997, officials from the Federal Bureau of Investigation announced they had uncovered evidence that the government of China had sought to make illegal foreign contributions to the Democratic National Committee.[116][117] Despite the evidence,[118][119] both the presidential administration and the Chinese government denied any wrongdoing.[120][121]

1984 election (by Soviet Union)[edit]

When Ronald Reagan was running for reelection as president, the Soviet Union opposed his candidacy and took active measures against it.[122] Soviet intelligence reportedly attempted to infiltrate both the Republican National Committee and Democratic National Committee.[122]

1980 election (by Iran)[edit]

Throughout the 1980 presidential election, negotiations were ongoing between the administration of Jimmy Carter and the government of Iran regarding 52 American citizens who had been taken hostage in November 1979.[123] Although it was recognized that negotiations were nearing a successful conclusion, the government of Iran delayed their release until after the election, potentially in retaliation for the decision of Carter to admit the deposed Iranian leader Mohammad Reza Pahlavi to the United States for cancer treatment.[123][124]

Opinions differ as to the intentional nature of the delay with regard to the outcome of the election. A ten-month investigation by the U.S. House of Representatives concluded that there was "virtually no credible evidence to support the accusations."[125] However, former Iranian President Abolhassan Banisadr claimed there was a deal between Reagan and Iran to delay the release in exchange for arms.[126]

1968 election (by South Vietnam)[edit]

In the last months of the presidential election between Richard Nixon and Hubert Humphrey, President Lyndon B. Johnson announced an October surprise, intended to aid Humphrey, by declaring a cessation to bombing in the ongoing Vietnam War and a new round of peace negotiations. In response, Humphrey's popularity grew, eventually leading Nixon by three percentage points.

However, the South Vietnamese government, in consultation with the Nixon campaign, announced three days prior to the election that they would not be participating in the talks, and Nixon went on to win the vote by less than a percentage point.[123]

1960 election (by Soviet Union)[edit]

Adlai Stevenson II had been the Democratic presidential nominee in 1952 and 1956, and the Soviets offered him propaganda support if he would run again for president in 1960, but Stevenson declined to run again.[127] Instead, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev backed John F. Kennedy in that very close election, against Richard Nixon with whom Krushchev had clashed in the 1959 Kitchen Debate.[128] On 1 July 1960 a Soviet MiG-19 shot down an American RB-47H reconnaissance aircraft in the international airspace over the Barents Sea with four of the crew being killed and two captured by the Soviets: John R. McKone and Freeman B. Olmstead.[129] The Soviets held on to those two prisoners, in order to avoid giving Nixon (who was the incumbent Vice-President of the United States) an opportunity to boast about his ability to work with the Soviets, and the two Air Force officers were released just days after Kennedy's inauguration, on 25 January 1961. Khrushchev later bragged that Kennedy acknowledged the Soviet help: "You're right. I admit you played a role in the election and cast your vote for me...."[128] Former Soviet ambassador to the United States Oleg Troyanovsky confirms Kennedy's acknowledgment, but also quotes Kennedy doubting whether the Soviet support made a difference: "I don't think it affected the elections in any way."[128][130]

1940 election (by Nazi Germany)[edit]

In October 1940, seeking to derail the reelection of incumbent U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, the Nazis bribed a U.S. newspaper to publish a document that Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop hoped would convince American voters that Roosevelt was a "warmonger" and "criminal hypocrite". Leaking the captured Polish government document failed to have its intended effect, and Republican presidential nominee Wendell Willkie lost the election.[5][131]

1940 elections (by United Kingdom)[edit]

From 1940 until "at least 1944", the British Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) orchestrated what Politico's Steve Usdin described as an influence campaign "without parallel in the history of relations between allied democracies" to undermine U.S. politicians opposed to American participation in World War II—much of which was documented in a declassified history by William Stephenson, the head of the SIS front organization British Security Co-ordination (BSC). Usdin stated that "SIS ... flooded American newspapers with fake stories, leaked the results of illegal electronic surveillance and deployed October surprises against political candidates."[132]

1796 election (by France)[edit]

The French minister (ambassador) to the United States, Pierre Adet, and other French officials, openly supported the Republicans and their presidential nominee Thomas Jefferson, while attacking the Federalists and their presidential nominee John Adams.[133] Adams won anyway.

Venezuelan election (by Soviet Union, 1958)[edit]

The Soviet Union covertly supported Wolfgang Larrazabal in the 1958 Venezuelan general election.[24]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ These covered the period between 1946 and 2000, and included 148 countries, all with populations above 100,000.
  2. ^ This is, as the author points out, "Assuming, of course, a similar shift in the relevant swing states and, accordingly, the electoral college."[3]
  3. ^ Others, such as Corstange and Marinov,[9] Miller,[10] and Gustafson[11]:49, 73–74 have argued that foreign electoral intervention is likely to have the opposite effect.


  1. ^ a b c d e Shulman, Stephen; Bloom, Stephen (2012). "The legitimacy of foreign intervention in elections: the Ukrainian response". Review of International Studies. 38 (2): 445–471. doi:10.1017/S0260210512000022. Retrieved 12 January 2017.
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Further reading[edit]

  • David Shimer (2020). Rigged: America, Russia, and One Hundred Years of Covert Electoral Interference. Knopf. ISBN 978-0525659006.