Increasingly aware of the risk of strife presented by elections in countries affected by conflict, governments and civil society need more effective approaches to prevent election-related violence. The U.S. Institute of Peace conducts research, training and fieldwork to develop evidence that will improve knowledge in this field and inform initiatives such as codes of conduct developed by police and elections officials to avert violence. USIP’s Academy also conducts extensive training and education on election violence prevention in Africa. Learn more in USIP’s fact sheet on Preventing Election Violence.
Elections that are organized amid a peace process can either destabilize or pacify a conflict. The vote can put significant pressure on a peace accord, as Colombia is experiencing today, or it can integrate formerly warring parties into the political process, as in Nepal’s 2008 Constituent Assembly elections. The timing of elections in relation to peace processes, as well as the inclusivity of the process itself, are critical in determining whether peace or conflict prevails at the polls.
Iraq’s landmark 2018 national elections—the first since the military defeat of ISIS—presented an opportunity for a much-needed course correction for the country’s sclerotic political process. Unfortunately, that opportunity was not seized properly. The vote was marred by claims of widespread fraud, low voter turnout, a delayed results announcement and a protracted government formation process. Originally scheduled for the spring of 2017, Iraq’s parliament recently delayed provincial elections again, moving the date to early April 2020. The election delay will give Iraq’s institutions further time to do the important work necessary to get these elections right and, thus, get Iraq’s politics on the right track. But, it is urgent for this work—bolstered by support from the international community—to start now.
The people of Burma will head to the polls in late 2020 to elect more than 1,100 representatives to national, state, and regional legislative bodies. During a recent field assessment, the U.S. Institute of Peace confirmed that the risk of election-related violence is surprisingly low considering the ongoing conflicts and multitude of grievances. However, hate speech, disinformation, and intense competition between parties could create violent incidents, particularly during the campaign period. Early efforts to promote peaceful elections need to start now as the window for effective prevention will soon be closed.