Dec 11, 2012

Political Competition: Research on Kenya Post-Election Violence

This article investigates whether vote-buying and the instigation of violence in the disputed 2007 Kenyan elections were strategically motivated, and whether those affected by electoral violence changed their views towards ethno-politics and the use of violence. To answer these questions, a panel survey conducted before and after the elections is combined with external indicators of electoral violence. We find that political parties targeted vote-buying towards specific groups to weaken the support of their political rivals and to mobilize their own supporters. Furthermore, parties instigated violence strategically in areas where they were less likely to win. Although the victims of violence would prefer that parties are no longer allowed to organize in ethnic or religious lines, they are more likely to identify in ethnic terms, support the use of violence and avoid relying on the police to resolve disputes. The overall findings suggest an increased risk of electoral-violence reoccurring.
That is from the new paper by Roxana Gutiérrez-Romero (November 2012), "An Inquiry into the Use of Illegal Electoral Practices and Effects of Political Violence." Her findings are consistent with recent research by Brown and Sriram who argue: 
. . . [T]he fundamental reason why the government has not initiated systematic prosecutions in regular domestic courts – or created, as promised, a hybrid national/international tribunal – is that those in charge of establishing these processes are, in many cases, those whom it would prosecute or their close allies.
How can election-related violence be reduced or eliminated in countries like Kenya? More civic education could help. Although this might sound like a "romantic" and ineffective solution there is evidence to the contrary. 

When I think about post-election violence I picture a group of people that gets out of control and violence escalates; in other words, a spontaneous and non-rational collective-action. The papers above however show that in the case of Kenya, post-election violence is the result of a deliberate and rational plan.

A graph from Gutiérrez-Romero's paper:

She concludes:
The evidence suggests that political parties used illegal electoral practices strategically, despite the fact that the main parties contending had formed only recently, lacked political infrastructure such as provincial branch offices and provided little instruction to their local candidates, a characteristic shared with other African countries (LeBas 2011; Kramon 2011). The results suggest that the ethno-political cleavages that shape the formation of political parties and the mobilization of voters in African democracies (Mozaffar, Scarrit and Galaich 2003), are also a robust factor in explaining the strategic use of illegal electoral practices . . . 
The areas with more closely contested elections received more threats, more instigation of violence, and reported a higher incidence of gangs operating in their areas with political links both before and after the elections. The reason political actors targeted these areas was to prevent rival supporters from voting, using these tactics as a measure of ‘damage control’. 
Pretty informative paper. The discussion on enforcing ethnic identity to make election violence more acceptable is also interesting.  

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