Electoral Processes & Political Parties: Case Studies

Below are presented a few suggestions for developing case studies. Comments and suggestions are welcome. We want in particular to give concrete examples of what has been implemented so far in different contexts, including why, how, what the main outputs and outcomes have been, what the different points of view on each particular experience are, where visitors can find more resources useful for their own context, and so on. By providing access to a vast array of perspectives and experiences, the portal should enable users to create the knowledge they need for their own context. As it is an evolving platform, we will continue to expand this database of experiences as the project progresses.

Afghanistan: Security as a precondition to elections?

The international community took a decisive lead in promoting a change of regime in Afghanistan and organizing elections. Many observers have questioned the hosting of these elections, however. They have underlined the contradiction with strategic imperatives of the United States-led intervention and the very insecure environment in which the October 2004 elections took place. Afghanistan seems to be an obvious illustration of the tension between political reforms and security issues. Many critics also present it as a new illustration of the fact that ill-timed, hurried, badly designed, or poorly run elections could actually undermine the process of democratization. The conditions of western intervention are also perceived as challenging the very notion of democracy, as the intervention bears little resemblance to the democratic idea of participation and public accountability.

For more information:

International Crisis Group (ICG). Afghanistans New Legislature: Making Democracy Work. Brussels: ICG, May 2006.

Sukrke, Astri. The Democratisation of a Dependent State: The Case of Afghanistan. Madrid: Fundacin para las Relaciones Internacionales y el Dilogo Exterior, December 2007.

Tadjbakhsh, Shahrbanou, and Michael Schoiswohl. "'Installing' Democracy in Afghanistan."

[Back to Top]

Bosnia and Herzegovina: Proliferation of representatives and elections

The signing of the Dayton Peace Agreement and the hosting of new multi-party elections in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) are often critiqued for a range of reasons, including the internationalization of the process and the pressure to rapidly institutionalize democracy. Through this lens, a number of observations have been made in relation to the post-war elections and the highly consociational attributes of this "elite bargain." In BiH, significant international emphasis was placed on the inclusion of all interests. Consequently, the Bosnia legislature is marked by the proliferation of representatives, with 200 ministers and 80 political parties for a state with a population of just under 4 million. Consequently, this structure is argued to be highly elitist, likely to entrench ethnic differences, and ultimately, largely inefficient.

Furthermore, several elections have been criticized as having significant flaws and involving fraud. Finally, the structure of Dayton vested power in the Office of the High Representative to impose laws and dismiss public officials. This structure allowed the dismissal of a number of elected officials and consequently contributed to strengthening the irresponsibility of local political actors and discouraging voters. Hence, the electoral process in post-war BiH is often highlighted as being fraught with issues of inefficiency and lack of legitimacy.

For more information:

Cox, Marcus. "State Building and Post-Conflict Reconstruction: Lessons From Bosnia." Paper for the project, "Cluster of Competence: The Rehabilitation of War-Torn Societies," Centre for Applied Studies in International Negotiations, January 2001.

Pugh, Michael, and Margaret Cobble. "Non-Nationalist Voting in Bosnian Municipal Elections: Implications for Democracy and Peacebuilding." Journal of Peace Research 38, no. 1 (2001).

Solioz, Christophe. "The Challenge of Controlled Democracy." Balkan Reconstruction Report, 12 August 2003.

United Nations Public Administration Network (UNPAN). Nations in Transit 2003: Country Report of Bosnia-Herzegovina. Geneva: UNPAN, 2003.

Woodward, Susan L. Implementing Peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina: A Post-Dayton Primer and Memorandum of Warning. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution, May 1996.

[Back to Top]

Cambodia: Overlooking and institutionalizing fraud in elections

Cambodia is a case of strong international involvement in the moment of elections. The elections that took place in post-war Cambodia have been criticized for instituting a flawed system. In the rushed "exit strategy" approach to the 199394 elections, international observers often overlooked flaws and even were complacent and participatory in acts of fraud, both accidental and intentional. The long-term effects of this have been largely detrimental, in that such fraudulent practices are thought to be entrenched in the political process and to facilitate the interpretation of the system in an autocratic mode.

For more information:

Asian Network for Free Elections (ANFREL). Cambodia: Struggling for Justice and Peace: Report of the Missions on the 1998 Elections. Bangkok: ANFREL, 1999.

Doyle, M.W. UN Peacekeeping in Cambodia: UNTACs Civil Mandate. Boulder,

CO: Lynne Rienner, 1995.

International Crisis Group (ICG). Cambodias Flawed Elections: Why Cambodia Will Not Be Ready for Free and Fair Elections on 26 July 1998. Brussles: ICG, June 1998.

Peou, Sorpong. "The Cambodian Elections of 1998 and Beyond: Democracy in the Making?" Contemporary Southeast Asia 20 (1998).

Sanderson, John M., and Michael Maley. "Elections and Liberal Democracy in Cambodia." Australian Journal of International Affairs 52, no. 3 (1998): 241-53.

[Back to Top]

El Salvador: Successful party transformations or failure of reform?

The case of El Salvadors reformation of the former combatant group, Farabundo Mart National Liberation Front (FMLN), into political parties is often cited as a success story and a case to look to for transformation processes. Little attention has been paid, however, to the remaining challenges in the electoral system and the fact that after the peace accord, the country was drawn into a series of "elections without voters." The issue of electoral registers was particularly problematic in that regard, as the registers massively exclude citizens from voting. The weaknesses observed in the first post-conflict polls have not only remained unresolved but also grown worse, as successive elections have lacked transparency and increasingly discouraged voters to participate.

These difficulties encountered by the Salvadorian electoral system are important with regards to the peacebuilding agenda when one considers the historical background of the conflict. Indeed, the outbreak of the Salvadoran conflict in January 1981 was preceded four years earlier by guerrilla actions launched in the wake of demonstrations against the massive rigging that had stained the elections of February 1977. An examination of why these difficulties were not addressed earlier and how they have been progressively dealt with could result in interesting lessons for other cases.

For more information:

Comeman, Kenneth M., Jose Miguel Cruz, and Petere J. Moore. "Retos para consolidar la democracia en El Salvador." Estudios Centroamericanos (May-June 1996): 415-40.

Holiday, David, and William Stanley. "Building the Peace: Preliminary Lessons from El Salvador." Journal of International Affairs 46, no. 2 (1993).

Montgomery, Tommie Sue. Revolution in El Salvador: From Civil Strife to Civil Peace. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1995.

Munck, Gerardo L. "Beyond Electoralism in El Salvador: Conflict Resolution through Negotiated Compromise." Third World Quarterly 14, no. 1 (1993).

Pouligny, Beatrice. "The Limits of Imposed 'Procedural Democracy' in Post-War Societies." In Peace Operations Seen from Below. London: Hurst, 2006.

[Back to Top]

Haiti: Instituting fraud and voter disenchantment

The elections in Haiti have been significantly criticized for instituting fraud. Some have noted the low voter turnout in many elections since 1995 and have cited this as a result of disenchantment with the political structure. In the 1995 elections, widespread allegations of fraud surfaced. In addition, the sustainability of the voting structure was not maintained. Yet, in many elections, registration turnout was high. Conversely, turnout on election day was particularly low, and in some cases the election was even boycotted. Some point to the idea that while there is a political structure, each election is marked with fraud and sometimes violence, and that daily life changes little for the Haitian population. The frequency of voting only serves to underscore the failures of the electoral system in the eyes of the citizenry.

For more information:

Ashdown, Sue, and Olivia Burlingame Goumbri. "Haiti: An Election without Voters." Haiti-Info, July 23, 2005.

Kumar, Chetan, Sara Lodge, and Karen Resnick. Sustainable Peace through Democratization: The Experience of Haiti and Guatemala. Oslo: International Peace Institute,March 2002.

Mobekk, E. "Enforcement of Democracy in Haiti." Democratization 8, no. 3 (2001): 173-88.

Pouligny, Beatrice. "Promoting Democratic Institutions in Post-Conflict Societies: Giving Diversity a Chance." International Peacekeeping 7, no. 3 (2000): 17-35.

Rutstein, Diania. "Registration Considered Successful Despite Controversy: Over Four Million Registered in Haiti." Elections Today, Winter 2000.

United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Bureau for Democracy, Conflict, and Humanitarian Assistance (DCHA), Office of United States Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA). Haiti: Complex Emergency. Washington, DC: USAID, March 31, 2004.

[Back to Top]

Mozambique: Transforming former combatants into political parties

Mozambique typifies a case where justice has been largely overlooked in the name of peace. The "international community" vested significant funds and interests in order to pay former Resistncia Nacional Moambicana (RENAMO) leaders to stop fighting. This case is a bit of an exception, however. Although peace has been hailed as a success in Mozambique, donors have been reluctant to repeat this form of party assistance, in which a trust fund is established to provide individual support to former leaders and to "corrupt" them to peace.

For more information:

Armon, Jeremy, Dylan Hendrickson, and Alex Vines, eds. "The Mozambican Peace Process in Perspective." ACCORD (1998).

Carbone, Giovanni M. Emerging Pluralist Politics in Mozambique: The Frelimo-Renamo party system. London: Crisis States Research Centre, March 2003.

Druckman, Daniel, and Terrence Lyons. "Negotiation Processes and Postsettlement Relationships: Comparing Nagorno-Karabakh with Mozambique." In Peace versus Justice: Negotiating Forward- and Backward-Looking Outcomes, edited by William I. Zartman and Victor Kremenyuk, 265-86. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2005.

Harrison, Graham. "Democracy in Mozambique: The Significance of Multi-Party Elections." Review of African Political Economy 67 (1996): 19-35.

Lyons, Terrence. Postconflict Elections: War Termination, Democratization, and Demilitarizing Politics. Fairfax, VA: Institute for Conflict Analysis and Resolution, George Mason University, February 2002.

Manning, Carrie. 2002. The Politics of Peace in Mozambique: Post-Conflict Democratization, 1992-2000. Westpoint, CT: Praeger.

Sumich, Jason. Strong Party, Weak State? Frelimo and State Survival through the Mozambican Civil War: An Analytical Narrative on State-Making. London: Crisis States Research Centre, December 2007.

Vines, Alex. Renamo: From Terrorism to Democracy in Mozambique? London: James Currey, 1996.

[Back to Top]

Nepal: Elections as a "moment" for democracy

In 2008, after a decade of civil war, elections were held in Nepal, representing the first step toward democracy and transforming a 250-year-old monarchy. This moment has been cited as a unique opportunity, transitioning Nepal into a democratic state for the first time. Some, including the United Nations secretary-general, have noted that in order to avoid mistakes made in other contexts, it is important that successful elections not been perceived as sufficient for democracy to take hold in Nepal. This is particularly evidenced by the violence that erupted and surrounded the electoral period. This strife points to the need to establish minimum security standards before elections can be thought to have a concrete impact for local populations.

For more information:

Hachhethu, Krishna, Sanjay Kumar, and Jiwan Subdi. Nepal in Transition: A Study on the State of Democracy. Stockholm: International IDEA, March 2008.

International Crisis Group (ICG). Nepals Elections and Beyond. Brussels: ICG, April 2008.

"Nepal: Recent Elections 'Only a Milestone' in Peace Process," Says Ban Ki-Moon. United Nations News. May 16, 2008.

"Nepal Still Faces Challenges After Successful Election," UN Envoy Stresses.United Nations New, May 22, 2008.

[Back to Top]

Rwanda: Quotas for women in the legislature

In post-conflict Rwanda, new constitutional and electoral laws stipulate that legislatures must include 30 percent women at the national and local levels. Many have hailed Rwanda as a success story in this instance and noted strong leadership in Rwandan governance. However, others put forth the critique that this has been a challenge to implement and that participation does not necessarily translate into empowerment. Furthermore, though studies have indicated a correlation between improved levels of governance and womens participation, some would contend that Rwanda is an ill-suited case and that in reality it should be considered an authoritarian model rather than a success story of democratic governance.

For more information:

Constitution of the Republic of Rwanda (Special Law 42/2003).

Falkman, Helle Shwartz. Womens Representation in the Rwandan Parliament: An Analysis of Variations in the Representation of Womens Interests Caused by Gender and Quota. Gothenburg: Gothenburg University, Autumn 2004.

International IDEA/University of Stockholm. Global Database of Quotas for Women: Country Overview, Rwanda.

Kanakuze, Judith. "Quotas in Practice: The Challenge of Implementation and Enforcement in Rwanda." Paper presented at the International IDEA/Electoral Institute of Southern Africa (EISA)/Southern African Development Community (SADC) Parliamentary Forum Conference on "The Implementation of Quotas: African Experiences," Pretoria, South Africa, November 11-12, 2003.

Pearson, Elizabeth, and Elizabeth Powley, eds. Demonstrating Legislative Leadership: The Introduction of Rwandas Gender-Based Violence Bill. Initiative for Inclusive Security Report, April 2008.

Powley, E. "Strengthening Governance: The Role of Women in Rwandas Transition." Paper presented at the Women Waging Peace Policy Commission, September 2003.

The news, reports, and analyses herein are selected due to there relevance to issues of peacebuilding, or their significance to policymakers and practitioners. The content prepared by HPCR International is meant to summarize main points of the current debates and does not necessarily reflect the views of HPCR International or the Program of Humanitarian Policy and Conflict Research. In addition, HPCR International and contributing partners are not responsible for the content of external publications and internet sites linked to this portal.