The elections this year in the Philippines, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Gabon and even the United States, demonstrate how high-stakes elections frequently trigger anxiety, tension or even violence or the threat of unrest. Properly managed elections allow opposing groups to press their claim to power through a peaceful process. But in fragile democracies, elections frequently feature intimidation or violent protest. U.S. Institute of Peace Senior Program Officer Jonas Claes, editor of the new book Electing Peace: Violence Prevention and Impact at the Polls, discusses sometimes surprising findings of research into what election assistance professionals can do to help keep the peace.
Diplomats and international election experts have worked with police, supported election commissioners or pressured lead candidates to refrain from inciting violence. Civil society groups often focus on involving youth in constructive activities and using peace messaging on social media or in other forums. But what works in a given context, what doesn’t and how can assistance programs be more effective?