Elections in Dangerous Places

Elections in Dangerous Places: Democracy and the Paradoxes of Peacebuilding

Copyright Date: 2011
Pages: 344
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    Elections in Dangerous Places
    Book Description:

    Through a series of frank and incisive case studies of conflicted countries, contributors' chapters challenge the centrality and timing of elections as a key pillar of reconstruction at a war's end. They underline the dangers in rushing elections, compromising principles, and lowering the bar for what constitutes free and fair elections in situations of conflict. The authors also underline the economic cost of elections in uncertain political situations and argue that global taxpayers, who must bear the burden, are justified in questioning the value of ill-timed elections. A candid and important study of political turmoil, Elections in Dangerous Places provides valuable lessons and practical advice on how to better mitigate conflict and violence before, during, and after highly charged elections. Contributors include Thomas S. Axworthy (Walter and Duncan Gordon Foundation), Stephen Brown (University of Ottawa), David Gillies (The North-South Institute, Ottawa), Christian R. Hennemeyer (Bridging the Divide), Lisa Kammerud (International Foundation for Electoral Systems, Washington, DC), Johann Kriegler (Electoral Complaints Commission, Afghanistan and IFES Executive Advisory Council), Marc A. Lemieux (University of Ottawa), Khalid Mustafa Medani (McGill University), Susanne D. Mueller (Visiting Researcher at Boston University's African Studies Center), Ben Reilly (Australian National University and Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies), Gerald J. Schmitz (M.A., University of Saskatchewan; PhD, Carleton University), Sara Staino (International IDEA), Vincent Tohbi (graduate, National Administration School, Abidjan, Ivory Coast), Francesc Vendrell (Princeton University), and Eugenia Zorbas (Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade).

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-8574-4
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
    David Gillies
  4. Contributors
    (pp. xi-xviii)
  5. INTRODUCTION: Electoral Democracy and the Paradoxes of Peacebuilding
    (pp. xix-xxxvi)

    Election-related conflict and violence have risen to the forefront of the international agenda in the aftermath of turbulent elections in Côte d’Ivoire, Haiti, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Kenya. Egypt’s recent “Facebook revolution” was also driven by frustration, demonstrations, and riots over flawed parliamentary elections. The un estimates that up to 1,500 people may have died in election-related violence in Côte d’Ivoire. Thousands of people have been internally displaced or fled as refugees to neighbouring countries. In Kenya more than 1,200 people may have died and up to 350,000 were internally displaced after the December 2007 election. Up to 300...

    • 1 Understanding Elections in Conflict Situations
      (pp. 3-18)

      Elections have three main functions in a democracy. First, they are means of choosing the people’s representatives to a legislature, congress, or other representative forum, or to a single office such as the presidency. Second, elections are not just a means of choosing representatives but also of choosing governments. Indeed, in practice, elections are primarily a contest between competing political parties to see who will control the government. Finally, elections are a means of conferring legitimacy on the political system. Especially since the end of the Cold War and the third wave of democracy around the world, elections have become...

    • 2 Elections and the Future of Afghanistan
      (pp. 21-31)

      I have always been a firm believer in elections, provided that these are what used to be called “free and fair” or more recently “according to international standards.” Elections are not synonymous with democracy of course, but they constitute an important step towards it. I use the adjective “firm” because I spent the first twenty years of my life in a country where the only elections were to fill a portion of seats to a rubber-stamp “parliament” that was for the most part either appointed or indirectly elected. I was thirty-seven when, following Franco’s death, I cast my first vote...

    • 3 Iraq’s Conflicted Transition to Democracy: Analyzing Elections in a Violent Society
      (pp. 32-52)

      Since January 2005, Iraqis have experienced three national elections, one constitutional referendum, two provincial elections, and two regional elections. Have peaceful and legitimate elections that meet international standards been possible under occupation? Were Iraqis rushed into elections? How much violence was there during these polls? How was voter participation affected by this violence? Have ethnic and sectarian divides been overcome or exacerbated by elections? Has institutional design mitigated political conflict in Iraqi society? What trends are evident in analysing voting behaviour since 2005?

      This chapter will briefly examine Iraqi elections between January 2005 and March 2010 at national, regional, and...

    • 4 Democracy in Africa: Rumours of Its Demise Have Been Greatly Exaggerated
      (pp. 53-70)

      Inordinate attention is paid to elections in Africa because, to paraphrase Samuel Johnson, they concentrate the mind wonderfully. Politicians, donors, and the media tend to focus unduly on the simple act of casting ballots, and in the most contentious races international electoral observers often enjoy star status for a brief period. But the event of an election cannot be considered in isolation. It is merely one piece in the democratic puzzle, albeit an important one. Studying polls without considering the environment in which they are held is meaningless. Media freedom, literacy rates, security, political opposition, the state of the judiciary,...

    • 5 Elections, Governance, and Secession in Sudan
      (pp. 71-89)

      In January 2011, the people of the southern provinces of Sudan voted overwhelmingly to declare the independence of Southern Sudan from the North. The referendum was the culmination of an armistice in the longest-running civil conflict in Africa, between the central government seated in Khartoum and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) of Southern Sudan. The Sudanese civil war killed over two million people, mostly southerners, and displaced upwards of four million more. The conflict formally ended following the conclusion of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) signed by the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) and the SPLM in Naivasha, Kenya,...

    • 6 Election-Related Conflict Resolution Mechanisms: The 2006 Elections in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
      (pp. 90-104)

      The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is known by many epithets. The term “kleptocracy” was used to describe President Mobutu’s thirty-two-year rule combining authoritarianism, corruption, and state decay. The DRC was the site of “Africa’s World War” (1998–2003), which drew in six neighbouring armies and spawned three major rebellions and countless smaller ones – remnants of which still persist to this day.¹ UN officials tell us it is the “rape capital of the world.”² Though casualty figures are heavily disputed, the conflict is generally recognized as being the “deadliest since World War II.”³ The DRC is also the quintessential...

    • 7 Dying to Win: Elections, Political Violence, and Institutional Decay in Kenya
      (pp. 105-126)

      This paper examines the lessons learned from Kenya’s 2007 post-election violence and what has happened since then. It notes that the root causes of the violence still persist, have not been addressed, and easily could be reignited. Faced with a situation where institutions and the rule of law have been weakened deliberately and where diffused violence is widespread, both Kenya’s transition to democracy and the fate of the nation remain vulnerable. The argument here is that the problems faced in holding and managing elections in conflict situations often are not simply technical. Instead, in Kenya and elsewhere, many difficulties are...

    • 8 Lessons Learned and Forgotten: The International Community and Electoral Conflict Management in Kenya
      (pp. 127-144)

      The link between elections and violence in Kenya is quite different from most other countries examined in this book. In most cases, from Afghanistan to the Democratic Republic of the Congo to Sudan, post-conflict elections are an integral part of a peace process that is meant to end conflict and usher in an era of stability. Ben Reilly’s chapter in this volume, among others, lays out the logic of this sequencing, including some of the pitfalls of this “democratic peace” paradigm: ideally, violent conflict is replaced by non-violent electoral competition in a process that enjoys sufficient legitimacy and “buy-in” that...

    • 9 Merging Conflict Management with Electoral Practice: The IFES Experience
      (pp. 147-170)

      For election assistance practitioners, elections, conflict, violence, and security issues merge in every program. As Ben Reilly notes in this volume, elections in post-conflict scenarios are expected to do more than provide choices between government leaders and structures as well as a peaceful transition of power. They may also be expected to reconcile groups, cement alliances, or lessen the influence of undesired militant groups.

      Though elections without the burden of post-conflict trappings do not have the same level of expectation, those elections may also be troubled by conflict.¹ Many elections in transitional democracies, such as Kenya, India, Guyana, and Kyrgyzstan,...

    • 10 Preventing and Mitigating Election-Related Conflict and Violence: The Role of Electoral Justice
      (pp. 171-189)

      By their very nature, elections are a vehicle for constructive conflict, designed to manage and channel diversity of opinion in productive directions. If an election is free and fair, perceived as just, and accepted by all stakeholders, it can offer legitimate and non-violent avenues of change.¹

      Democratic institutions such as, for example, electoral management bodies (EMBS), are established to represent social interests and respond to public needs.² While strong and well-functioning institutions are well placed to represent social interests, weak or dysfunctional institutions are often either unable or too inefficient to do so. Well-functioning institutions are effective means not only...

    • 11 Electoral Dispute Resolution: A Personal Perspective
      (pp. 190-206)

      Although I have been involved in one way or another with various messy elections over the last sixteen years, I am by profession a lawyer who has spent most of his professional life in the courts in and around South Africa. Of elections I knew little, of their management nothing at all.

      My introduction to electoral administration was belated, accidental, and traumatic. Shortly before Christmas 1993, owing to a bad phone connection, I thought I was agreeing to serve on an electoral court for South Africa’s first democratic elections, due to take place some months later. I was a judge...

    • 12 Is Democracy Promotion “Globaloney” or a Categorical Imperative?
      (pp. 209-219)

      Election fraud in Afghanistan, monitored and confirmed by the international community, had the potential to force a runoff election in that war-torn land between the sitting president and his main contender. While the disputed election results of 20 August 2009 should not have been allowed to stand as they gravely impaired the legitimacy of a future Afghan government and its NATO defenders, the alternative – conducting a second election on 7 November, as ordered by Afghanistan’s Independent Electoral Commission – would have been no minor undertaking, carrying with it the distinct possibility of significant loss of life due to the civil war....

    • 13 Ongoing Dilemmas of Democratization: Canada and Afghanistan
      (pp. 220-245)

      These have been trying times for democracy optimists even if the recent popular uprisings that deposed entrenched despots in Tunisia and Egypt have set in motion a wider challenge to autocracy in a region long deprived of democratic oxygen. According to Freedom House, there was a net decline in respect for civil and political rights worldwide in 2010 for the fifth consecutive year, the longest continuous period of decline in the nearly forty years since it has been making country assessments. The number of electoral democracies dropped to 115, compared to 123 in 2005, the lowest total since 1995.¹ The...

  10. CONCLUSION: An Ounce of Prevention: Preliminary Implications for Policy and Practice
    (pp. 246-262)

    As we write this final chapter, the Jasmine and Facebook revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt have come to symbolize the struggle for pluralism, development, and dignity across the Middle East. In a “democracy-free zone” where the imperative of stability has long trumped human rights, the Arab world is going through a profound, and possibly irreversible, transformation. Spikes in food prices, soaring youth unemployment, and growing income inequality have all played a role in breaking down fear of corrupt regimes in the region. So too has “the failure of Egypt and Tunisia’s allies and aid donors – including Canada – to take economic...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 263-305)