Electoral Violence and Political Competition in Africa
- Liisa LaaksoLiisa LaaksoNordic Africa Institute
Electoral violence in Africa has garnered a lot of attention in research on African politics. Violence can be the result of manipulation of the electoral process or a reaction to that manipulation. While there is an agreement to distinguish it from the wider political violence by its timing with elections and motivation to influence their outcome, the analysis of its types, content, and impacts varies. There are different assessments of whether repetition of elections reduces violence or not. Elections in Africa are more often marred with violence than elections in other continents, but there is lots of variation between African countries, within countries, and even from one election to another. In addition to well-judged use and development of the existing datasets, qualitative methods and case studies are also needed. Much of the literature combines both approaches. In the analysis of the factors, causes, and contexts of electoral violence, researchers utilize distinct frameworks: emphasizing historical experiences of violence, patrimonial rule and the role of the “big man,” political economy of greed and grievance, as well as weak institutions and rule of law. All of them point to intensive competition for state power. Preelection violence often relates to the strategies of the government forces and their supporters using their powers to manipulate the process, while post-election riots typically follow in the form of spontaneous reactions among the ranks of the losing opposition. Elections are not a cause of the intensive power competition but a way to organize it. Thus, electoral violence is not an anomaly but rather a manifestation of the ongoing struggle for free and fair elections. It will be an issue for researchers and practitioners alike in the future as well.