Violence around elections in the Philippines, Gambia, Haiti or the Democratic Republic of Congo in recent years highlighted the risks of that most fundamental element of democracy—elections—and the connection with efforts to achieve sustainable peace. On March 23, the U.S. Institute of Peace held a half-day event to discuss past and upcoming elections that illustrate the risk of violence, with the aim of identifying promising ways to realize peace at the polls. Panelists included ambassadors to the U.S., leading election scholars, and the contributing authors of Electing Peace, a new USIP book that examines the effectiveness of common practices to prevent election violence.

Properly managed elections allow opposing groups to press their claim to power through a peaceful process. But in fragile democracies, elections too often are undermined by intimidation, violent protest or worse. International organizations and civil society can try to keep the peace in various ways: working with the police, supporting election commissioners or pressuring lead candidates to refrain from inciting violence. But what works in a given context, what does not, and how can these mechanisms be more effective?

Speakers discussed their own experience on the ground and presented research from Electing Peace, edited by USIP Senior Program Officer Jonas Claes. The volume can be ordered at the USIP bookstore. 

The event was webcast, and you can follow the discussion on social media with the Twitter hashtag #ElectingPeace


Ambassador Fareed Yasseen
Ambassador of Iraq to the United States

Jessica Huber
Senior Gender Specialist, International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) 

Geoffrey Macdonald
Professorial Lecturer, George Washington University 

Duncan McCargo
Professor of Political Science, University of Leeds

Elizabeth Murray
Senior Program Officer, Center for the Middle East and Africa, U.S. Institute of Peace

Bhojraj Pokharel
Jennings Randolph Senior Fellow on Preventing Election Violence, U.S. Institute of Peace

Manuela Travaglianti
Lecturer, Peace and Conflict Studies, University of California, Berkeley

Inken von Borzyskowski
Assistant Professor of Political Science, Florida State University

Ndung'u Gethenji
Chairman of the Defense and Foreign Relations Committee, Parliament of Kenya


Jonas Claes
Senior Program Officer for Preventing Election Violence, U.S. Institute of Peace

Pat Merloe
Senior Associate and Director, Election Programs, National Democratic Institute

Ambassador George Moose 
Vice Chairman, USIP Board of Directors

Related Publications

To Stabilize Iraq After ISIS, Help Iraqis Reconcile

To Stabilize Iraq After ISIS, Help Iraqis Reconcile

Sunday, February 11, 2018

By: USIP Staff; Nancy Lindborg; Sarhang Hamasaeed

An international conference opens in Kuwait Monday to plan ways to rebuild Iraq and secure it against renewed extremist violence following the three-year war against ISIS. A USIP team just spent nine days in Iraq for talks with government and civil society leaders, part of the Institute’s years-long effort to help the country stabilize. The Kuwait conference will gather government, business and civil society leaders to consider a reconstruction that Iraq has said could cost $100 billion. USIP’s president, Nancy Lindborg, and Middle East program director, Sarhang Hamasaeed, say any realistic rebuilding plan must focus also on the divisions and grievances in Iraq that led to ISIS’ violence and that still exist.

Conflict Analysis & Prevention; Violent Extremism

Kurdistan and Baghdad: A Tangled Web Over Oil and Budgets

Kurdistan and Baghdad: A Tangled Web Over Oil and Budgets

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

By: Andrew Snow

The economy of Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdistan Region is on the brink of collapse; only the central government in Baghdad can stop an economic free fall that’s already damaging the broader Iraqi economy. While a rapid, negotiated solution to this crisis is essential to stabilize and unify Iraq—and reassure investors needed for post-ISIS reconstruction—a host of complex issues over oil and the national budget stand in the way.

Economics & Environment

A New U.S. Strategy Will Keep American Troops in Syria

A New U.S. Strategy Will Keep American Troops in Syria

Thursday, January 18, 2018

By: USIP Staff; Mona Yacoubian

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has outlined a new Syria strategy for the Trump administration that includes an extended U.S. troop presence. Tillerson spoke days after Turkey, a NATO ally, denounced a U.S. plan to create a Border Security Force in Syria composed heavily of ethnic Kurds. Mona Yacoubian, a longtime analyst and policy specialist on Syria and the Middle East, discusses the implications of these developments.

Conflict Analysis & Prevention

View All Publications