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Peacemaking and Election Violence

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Abstract

Elections in post-conflict states serve a dual role. The first role, as in most countries, is to select leaders and lend legitimacy to the elected government and its policies. The second role, specific to post-conflict states, is for elections to help implement and consolidate an often fragile peace in the wake of ceasefires and in the context of destruction and mistrust; in this context, elections are part of a longer term peacebuilding process centred around re-establishing the rule of law and political participation.

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Elections are the centerpiece of efforts to rehabilitate countries devastated by civil conflict, and they are held increasingly often and early. We argue that the inability of postconflict politicians to commit credibly to respect peace and democracy implies that elections will inflame tensions unless countries have previous democratic experience or elections are delayed to allow for institution building. We test this theoretical framework with a statistical model of economic recovery and conflict recurrence. We show that early elections, particularly in new democracies, hasten recurrence; delaying elections two years in new democracies or one year in more established democracies can help forestall renewed violence.
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Barbara F. Walter is Assistant Professor, Graduate School of International Relations and Pacific Studies, University of California, San Diego, and Research Director for International Security at the Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation, University of California. The Ford Foundation supported this work through a grant to the Institute of War and Peace Studies at Columbia University. A version of this article will appear in Barbara F. Walter and Jack L. Snyder, eds., Civil Wars, Insecurity, and International Intervention (New York: Columbia University Press, forthcoming). The author wishes to thank James Fearon, Henk Goemans, Peter Gourevitch, Robert Jervis, David Laitin, David Lake, John McMillan, Jack Snyder, Richard Tucker, Barry Weingast, Christopher Woodruff, the participants of the 1998 John M. Olin Institute for Strategic Studies' seminar series, and especially Zoltan Hajnal for helpful comments on earlier drafts. 1. I coded civil wars as having had "negotiations" if factions held face-to-face talks and issues relevant to resolving the war were discussed. These qualifications eliminated scheduled talks that never took place, meetings where no substantive issues were deliberated, and talks that excluded key participants. I also attempted to apply a "good faith" proviso and exclude those meetings where one or both participants were obviously unwilling to yield on important issues. Although sometimes difficult to determine, certain actions did signal whether or not faction leaders honestly wished to cooperate. Their readiness to accept supervision, make public announcements of important concessions, discuss the details of a transfer of power, and participate in lengthy negotiations all generated costs to the groups involved and indicated more than a tactical interest in appearing to be cooperative. To say that a civil war experienced "negotiations," however, does not imply that groups would not willingly defect if they could benefit from cheating. "Negotiations" simply indicate that they were willing to consider an alternative to war. 2. Throughout this article, I treat both the government and the rebels as if leaders on each side represent a homogeneous group with unitary interests. In reality, the interests of a group are often diverse and transitory, and leaders frequently preside over fragile coalitions whose internal politics dictate behavior. Nonetheless, this assumption is justified because I argue that even if leaders are fortunate enough to preside over a group in complete agreement on behavior, they will still encounter difficult commitment problems. For an article that specifically addresses how the internal politics of a group can affect decisions to negotiate or fight, see Barbara F. Walter and Andrew Kydd, "Extremists, Uncertainty, and Commitments to Peace," unpublished paper, University of California, San Diego, or University of California, Riverside, September 1998. 3. Donald Horowitz, Ethnic Groups in Conflict (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1985), p. 564. See also Stephen John Stedman, "Spoiler Problems in Peace Processes," International Security, Vol. 22, No. 2 (Fall 1997), pp. 5-53. 4. Quoted in Goswin Baumhoegger, The Struggle for Independence: Documents on the Recent Development of Zimbabwe (1975-1980) (Hamburg: Institute of African Studies, Africa Documentation Center, 1984), vol. 2, p. 7. 5. Much exciting research is being done in the area of strategic barriers to successful negotiation in international relations. See especially James D. Fearon, "Rationalist Explanations for War," International Organization, Vol. 49, No. 3 (Summer 1995), pp. 379-414; and David A. Lake, Entangling Relations: American Foreign Policy in Its Century (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1998). 6. Paul Pillar, Negotiating Peace: War Termination as a Bargaining Process (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1983), p. 24. For similar arguments, see Fred Ikle, Every War Must End (New York: Columbia University Press, 1971), p. 95; George Modelski, "International Settlement of Internal War," in James Rosenau, ed., International Aspects of Civil Strife (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1964); and R. Harrison Wagner, "The Causes of Peace," in Roy Licklider, ed., Stopping the Killing: How Civil Wars End (New York: New York University Press, 1993). 7. See James D. Fearon, "Bargaining, Enforcement, and International Cooperation," International Organization, Vol. 52, No. 2 (Spring 1998), pp. 269-305. 8. See Roger B. Myerson and Mark A. Satterthwaite, "Efficient Mechanisms for Bilateral Trading," Journal of Economic Theory, Vol. 29, No. 2 (April 1983), pp. 265-281; James D...
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This article analyses the prospects for sustainable peace in Liberia. The implementation of the 2003 peace agreement has largely been successful, but there are reasons for concern. Liberia's history of repeated cycles of violence and fragile peace provides valuable lessons for the current peace process. The article argues that Liberia's future is contingent on three critical aspects. First, the management of the immediate and long-term security challenges in terms of the reconstruction of the security forces, the reintegration of ex-combatants and the management of spoilers. Second, the capacity and willingness of the new government to promote democratic progress and good governance. Third, the political developments in the neighbouring region.
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Elections,usually taken to be a hallmark of democracy,can also become a tool of authoritarian powerholders seeking to legitimate their rule.
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Journal of Democracy 13.4 (2002) 87-101 From 9 to 11 March 2002, more than three million Zimbabwean voters went to the polls—often standing patiently in line for many hours—to cast their ballots for the office of president. In all likelihood a majority of these voters, especially in larger cities such as Bulawayo and Harare, the capital, were hoping to bring a nonviolent end to the despotic two-decade-old rule of 78-year-old President Robert Mugabe and his Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF). The means to this goal would be the lawful election to the presidency of Mugabe's main challenger, former labor leader Morgan Tsvangirai of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). In the event, the voters would see their hopes dashed, but only after the regime deployed tactics whose sheer brutality and underhandedness were without precedent even in the troubled postindependence history of this southern African republic of 11.4 million people. When the fraudulent "contest" was over, Mugabe was declared the winner while Tsvangirai, braving the threat of treason charges, rejected the officially announced result and called for a new vote to be held under close international supervision. A number of countries and international organizations had sent teams to observe the election, but these groups came to different conclusions. The Commonwealth Observer Group, along with the Norwegians, the Ghanaians, and the Parliamentary Forum of the Southern African Development Community (SADC)—joined by nearly every Zimbabwean civic observer team—strongly condemned what it saw, arguing that the state and ruling party had created a climate of violence and fear that had impeded Zimbabweans in the exercise of their democratic rights. Among the critical reports filed by independent observers, that of the Commonwealth Mission was the most damaging to the regime, and led the Commonwealth to suspend Zimbabwe from its councils for a year. This was in addition to the sanctions imposed on Mugabe and some 70 of his close associates, which included travel restrictions, the freezing of party and private assets located in developed countries, and possible deportation of the children and dependents of these individuals back to Zimbabwe. These sanctions have already begun to have an impact, but the notion that they will make Mugabe capitulate and agree to a rerun of the election is a doubtful proposition at best. Dishearteningly, teams from Nigeria, South Africa, Namibia, and the Organization of African Unity called the election free and fair. The Namibian and OAU groups went even further by claiming that the official tally—which claimed, quite incredibly, that Mugabe had bested Tsvangirai by almost 464,000 votes out of 3.1 million ballots cast—truly reflected the wishes of the people of Zimbabwe. At the time of this writing in September 2002, a defiant Robert Mugabe was overseeing more strongarm takeovers of white-owned commercial farms (far and away the country's most productive, and a major source of employment) by ZANU-PF militants and "war veterans," and was having Morgan Tsvangirai charged with high treason. All this was occurring, moreover, against the backdrop of a disastrous decline in food production and rise in rural employment under the combined pressure of a regionwide drought and the farm seizures. How did things come to such a desperate pass in a country that had once been southern Africa's breadbasket, and which had since the late 1990s spawned a large and impressive array of civic and activist groups devoted to pressing the causes of democracy, good governance, and human rights? Zimbabwe gained its independence from Britain in 1980 after a long armed struggle led by ZANU-PF. Mugabe has been the only chief executive that the country has known since then, first as premier and then, after he changed the constitution, as president. Elections have been held regularly since independence, and ZANU-PF has always won them, usually by lopsided margins. In recent years, however, Mugabe has watched his popularity plummet to the point where his party lost a February 2000 referendum on a new draft constitution heavily backed by the regime. Voters hold Mugabe's policies responsible for the country's disastrous and growing immiseration amid...