Building peace by supporting post-conflict electoral processes

Authors: Bado, Arsene Brice
Advisor: Paquin, Jonathan; Hyde, Susan D.
Abstract: The record of the international community is mixed regarding support of post-conflict electoral processes developed to consolidate peace in countries emerging from internal armed conflict. It has constituted the empirical puzzle this dissertation strives to explore through the following questions: Is foreign electoral assistance effective as a tool for peace making in post-conflict societies? What determines the success or failure of electoral assistance as a tool for peace making in war-torn societies? In this dissertation, I developed and implemented an actors-centered, post-conflict electoral assistance theory that proposes ways to achieving peace consolidation in countries torn by civil war. I have argued that the key element for the success of post conflict elections in restoring peace is the extent to which electoral assistance builds the negotiation capacity of stakeholders in both the peace process as well as in the post-conflict electoral process. It is of vital importance that in post-conflict settings, comprehensive and effective electoral assistance must combine both the electoral process and the peace process. Electoral assistance will be unsuccessful if it focuses only on the technical aspects of the electoral process to ensure free and fair elections. To be effective in post-conflict countries, electoral assistance must contribute to establishing a durable peace by facilitating dialogue between former parties to the conflict and other societal groups, encouraging negotiation, and emphasizing compromise. Consequently, in post-conflict settings, an electoral process should not focus solely on strengthening electoral institutions that can guarantee free and fair elections. Emphasis should also be placed on additional factors that can prevent the recurrence of war, such as the abilities of individuals and groups to negotiate and reach compromises over major issues that may threaten the peace process. Even internationally acclaimed free and fair post-conflict elections, such as the one that took place in Liberia in 1997, do not necessarily prevent further war. From this standpoint, in order to be effective, electoral assistance in post-conflict settings must take a comprehensive approach that prioritizes such activities as civic education, awareness programs about citizens’ rights and responsibilities in a democratic society, public debate on divided issues, political participation, skills training, and any other activity that might help various parties in building their capacity for negotiation and compromise. Foreign electoral assistance that encompasses such issues will make a substantial contribution to consolidating the peace even in the context of imperfect elections, like those held in Sierra Leone in 2002 or Liberia in 2005. While the literature regarding electoral assistance in post-conflict situations does not ignore the importance of various stakeholders (K. Kumar, 1998, 2005), it has heavily focused on institutional mechanisms such as the reforms of laws and constitutions as well as on the development of electoral administrations, including electoral commissions, offices of voter registration, polling stations, election monitoring, etc. (Carothers & Gloppen, 2007). In other words, policy-makers and scholars have ascribed more importance to the design and enforcement of the framework and rules of the electoral process than to the assistance to participants in the post-conflict electoral process. I propose that now is the time to take into account the participants themselves through the above mentioned types of electoral assistance activities that would foster their ability to engage in peaceful debate over contested issues in an effort to find compromise. This more comprehensive form of electoral assistance can transform the electoral process to be not only an experience of the election of legitimate leaders, but also, and more importantly, to be a time during which participants learn to settle their conflicting points of view through debate, compromise and ultimately, through ballots and not through bullets. For, if the total framework of the process matters, the outcome of the process will rely on how participants comply with the rules.
Document Type: Thèse de doctorat
Issue Date: 2016
Open Access Date: 24 April 2018
Grantor: Université Laval
Collection:Thèses et mémoires

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