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The US, EU and other democracies are accepting flawed and unfair elections out of political expediency, Human Rights Watch says in its annual report.
Allowing autocrats to pose as democrats without demanding they uphold civil and political rights risked undermining human rights worldwide, it warned.
HRW said Pakistan, Thailand, Bahrain, Jordan, Nigeria, Kenya and Russia had been falsely claiming to be democratic.
The World Report 2008 summarises human rights issues in more than 75 nations.
In the report, HRW said established democracies such as the US and members of the European Union were increasingly tolerating autocrats "claiming the mantle of democracy".