Wednesday, April 10, 2013
Voting in Fear: CIPI Holds annual lecture focused on election violence
African elections officials and practitioners should take note: only 20 percent of elections in Africa experienced violence, but when they do, that violence is more likely to occur before an election rather than after. At the 2013 CIPI Electoral Violence Lecture: Voting in Fear on March 21, three contributors to the USIP-published book of the same name also noted that while presidential elections are more prone to violence than legislative or local contests, other red flags include closely contested elections, worsening economies, and weak institutions, as documented in Strauss and Taylor’s research – the only known dataset on electoral violence in Africa - that is included in the text.
The annual Electoral Violence Lecture welcomed Dorina Bekoe, Norma Kriger, and Lahra Smith to discuss the research they contributed to the book and key findings presented in the edited volume. A lunchtime panel held at the University Club in Washington, DC, the event was moderated by Jendayi Frazer, Director of the Center for International Policy and Innovation (CIPI). Diplomats, academics, executives, practitioners, and U.S. government officials attended the event, and asked the panelists questions about the role of gender in electoral violence, and the effectiveness of utilizing the International Criminal Court to deter such violence.
The speakers also highlighted land as a patronage tool in multiparty elections. Zimbabwe was used as a case study because it exemplified clear conditions of weak constitutional and legal constraints on property rights and intense multiparty competition.
In contrast, continent-wide findings did not apply to the case of Ethiopia, whose pivotal 2005 elections are still important to Ethiopian politics today. Ethiopia experienced most of its electoral violence six months after its elections, when opposition leaders were detained, and over 190 civilian protesters died in clashes with police and military officials.
However, post-election power-sharing political agreements may be effective tools to mitigate electoral violence. For example, Zanzibaris voted for such an agreement in 2010, assuring the second place finisher the Vice Presidency. Although some people think these agreements are not democratic, they could be a means to ending political violence.
Nonetheless, a similar power-sharing agreement did not have the same effect in the case of Togo. Rather, elections and meaningful reform took place because of international pressure, namely from the EU community and large financial institutions such as the World Bank.