Ndulo and Lulo on elections in post-conflict environments

Aug. 13, 2010, 3:41 p.m.

The proper organization and timing of elections in post-conflict societies is heavily debated in the development community.  Common issues include the debate over how soon elections should actually be held.  On one hand, elections may take time to organize, as voter registries are difficult to develop, boundary delimitation (if necessary) must be done fairly, and voters must be made aware of how the system works.  Rushing this process and failing to address all these issues may lead to an election that is viewed as illegitimate by large segments of the population.  However, taking too long to run an election can also lead to problems, as it involves keeping an interim, undemocratic leadership in place for an extended period of time.  Muna Ndulo and Sara Lulo have published a paper in the Harvard International Law Journal, which explores whether elections are a precondition to democratization and peace.  They argue that post-conflict elections can build peace, but only if they are properly administered, and only if the post-election period is followed by economic growth.  While many of the arguments made will not be new to DG practitioners and academics, the paper does provide a good overview of the many issues involved in properly running post-conflict elections.

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