Diverging for a second from the economy and the markets to international affairs, Alex de Waal of Social Science Research Council conducted a book review of Wars, Guns, and Votes, by Paul Collier. With a focus on elections, de Waal’s post on the Council’s blog took note of the applicability of Collier’s study on African nations. Specifically, de Waal looked into Sudan (the blog aptly called Making Sense of Darfur) and presented the following points (from his review of Collier’s book:
- For countries with incomes below $2,700 per capita, democratic elections increase the risk of conflict. For richer countries, it’s dictatorship that is more dangerous.
- [Collier] produces evidence that suggests that in poor and unstable countries, individuals with a criminal bent are more likely to enter politics (and succeed).
- While bribery and miscounting votes are the preferred strategies of the incumbents, violence tends to be the strategy preferred by the weaker challenger. For instance, Kibaki vs. Odinga in Kenyan elections.
- A very important, if under-developed, side argument in Wars, Guns, and Votes is that what drives rebellion is not grievance but feasibility.
He also cited three imporant lessons, which the book failed to draw:
The first lesson is that, as in any other country, the first post-conflict elections can be very dangerous. While the run-up to the elections may be calm…the real risk of violent lies in the aftermath. The fact that so many positions are up for election multiplies the risk, as governorships and state assembly seats may be more bitterly contested than national office.
The second lesson is that the elections—although delayed beyond the CPA timetable—are still much too early to be a plebiscite on the CPA (Comprehensive Peace Agreement). It is only through the decades-long process of social and economic rehabilitation that the success of the peace settlement will become apparent and the risks of a new war will be avoided. If the purpose of the exercise is to ascertain whether the Government of National Unity is ‘making unity attractive’, it is a foregone conclusion that the answer will be no.
The third lesson is that the best chance for minimizing the hazards is a pre-election pledge between the main parties in the Government of National Unity, to an ongoing partnership, in which the major issues and resource allocations are all decided in advance of the election. This implies that the less there is a real choice in front of the electorate, the safer the result will be—‘safer’ for the parties also means safer for the citizens.
Read his review in its entirety HERE.