Elections are a defining characteristic of democracy, and thus form an integral part of the democratization process. Over the past decade, electoral systems and processes have become a centerpiece of UN peacekeeping missions and post-conflict democratization projects undertaken by intergovernmental organizations and donor agencies such as World Bank and USAID. The emphasis on elections as an element of UN peacekeeping missions is linked to a shift in focus to state rebuilding (or state creation, as was the case in East Timor). Elections thus provide a means for “jump-starting a new, post-conflict political order; for stimulating the development of democratic politics; for choosing representatives; for forming governments; and for conferring legitimacy upon the new political order.”
Recent election-related violence in countries such as Iraq, Afghanistan, Kenya, and Zimbabwe have led some to question whether elections reduce the risk of conflict and in fact lead to stability, democracy, peace and development. For example, Havard Hegre and Hanne Fjelde have recently argued that there is no evidence that post-war elections reduce conflict in the short term, but rather that electoral processes are associated with heightened risk of civil war. Such violence is often attributed to a lack of “security” before elections take place. There is thus an arguably growing view that security should be the dispositive pre-requisite for the organization of postconflict elections.
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