While multiparty politics has become a norm across the African continent, electoral contests have frequently been accompanied by violence. This panel explores the causes, dynamics and consequences of electoral violence in comparative perspective.
Since the reintroduction of multiparty politics across sub-Sharan Africa in the early 1990s, electoral competition has become the norm. Moreover, the dominance of the liberal peace paradigm in the last two decades has engendered a heavy emphasis on the importance of competitive multi-party elections in post-conflict, weak or unstable societies. Electoral processes are widely regarded as effective mechanisms for managing and resolving conflict, and as key vehicles for establishing, stabilising and consolidating democracy. However, the relationship between democracy, elections and peace has been far from unproblematic and a significant number of countries across the African continent have remained vulnerable to forms of election-related violence. Some countries, such as Cote d'Ivoire, Kenya, Zimbabwe, and Nigeria have witnessed widespread and intense violence surrounding elections. Even more common, perhaps, is the persistence of low-intensity violence, intimidation, and manipulation during electoral processes in many of Africa's 'new democracies.' Despite its proliferation, the causes, manifestations and consequences of election-related violence remain relatively understudied, and the variations in violence intensity across time and space are poorly understood. This panel explores election related violence in a variety of contexts and from different perspectives, addressing the following questions: What constitutes election-related violence? What are the causes of election-related violence? Who instigates such violence and why? What are the local dynamics of electoral violence? What accounts for the variation in the intensity of election violence across time and space? How can election-related violence be better anticipated? How might it be prevented, managed, or mitigated?