Post-conflict elections are criticized as being useless at best and dangerous at worst. In contrast, I find that are particular type of elections — those in which former militant groups compete against the governments that they were fighting — actually increase the duration of peace post-conflict. This effect, however, is conditional on an expectation of international monitoring of the elections. These results are consistent with what I call a commitment theory of electoral participation whereby militant groups and governments bind themselves to a peace deal by engaging an external actor efficiently. Such engagement increases the former combatants’ confidence that the terms of a settlement will be respected. The electoral process, specifically, is useful because it provides transparency, visibility, and accountability for both sides. Since the end of the Cold War, third parties in the form of international actors have been able to use these aspects of the electoral process at times to assist in maintaining peace. The research thus casts doubt on more uniformly pessimistic views of electoral competition as a conflict resolution tool.
Aila Matanock is a Ph.D. candidate in political science at Stanford University. She is also a pre-doctoral fellow at both the Center for International Security and Cooperation (CISAC) and the Miller Center of Public Affairs. Her research examines governance and civil conflict with a focus on international intervention. Her dissertation analyzes why militant groups — those employing terrorism, guerrilla and/or insurgency tactics with political aims — participate as parties in national elections. Aila seeks to understand both post-conflict and mid-conflict participation. Her other main project explores social support for different types of armed actors through survey experiments. She is also interested in governance delegation agreements in fragile and failing states.