This study examines the role elections play in negotiations between states and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Although loans made by the IMF often require countries to introduce painful austerity measures that provoke a backlash from angry citizens, some governments are able to negotiate more favorable terms than others. Original data on the substantive content of IMF loans show that governments leverage imminent elections to obtain more lenient loan terms. Conditions that require labor market reforms in exchange for IMF financing are relatively less stringent in loans negotiated within six months before a pending democratic election, all else equal. The further away elections are from loan negotiations, the more stringent the labor conditions included in countries’ loan programs. Elections give governments leverage in their international negotiations and this leverage is effective even when states negotiate with unelected bureaucrats during times of economic crisis.