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

Speakers

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

Moderators

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

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