February 22, 2012
Ballots instead of bullets
Former START fellow sheds light on why electoral participation matters for peace
BY JESSICA RIVINIUS
According to ongoing research from former START Fellow Aila Matanock, post-conflict elections, as part of negotiated settlements, can serve as commitment devices that may ultimately help end civil conflicts. Matanock returned to consortium headquarters this month to discuss “International Insurance: Why Militant Groups and Governments Compete with Ballots Instead of Bullets.”
Now a political science researcher and pre-doctoral fellow at both the Center for International Security and Cooperation, as well as the Miller Center of Public Affairs, Matanock is examining why negotiated settlements with provisions for electoral participation correlate to an increase in the duration of peace between the parties.
“Certain kinds of post-conflict elections are useful conflict resolution tools,” Matanock said. “For instance, when militant groups and governments participate, elections effectively commit the combatants to a negotiated settlement. Settlements with these elections are associated with more durable peace than other settlements – peace lasts longer and fails 24 percent less frequently.”
Her research also showed that when there is participation provisions for elections, groups are less likely to return to conflict. Within five years of settlement, 80 percent of groups with participation provisions did not return to conflict. Upon further investigation she found that electoral participation provisions are associated with a longer duration of peace only when international actors are engaged.
So, why do militant groups and governments compete in elections as part of a settlement? According to Matanock’s research, electoral participation helps commit combatants to honor the deal by engaging international actors to monitor and punish violations.