Elections and Social Conflict in Africa, 1990–2009

  • Idean SalehyanEmail author
  • Christopher Linebarger


Proponents of democratization often claim that liberal institutions have a palliative effect on the level of conflict within societies. Critics, however, suggest that the instruments of democracy, especially elections, can spark political violence, particularly in weakly institutionalized settings. Using the newly available Social Conflict in Africa Database (SCAD), we examine the relationship between executive elections and social conflict in Africa for the period 1990–2009. We also assess the conditions which make elections more or less violent. We examine elections in (1) countries faced with armed conflict, (2) post-conflict settings, (3) elections in autocracies, and (4) in relatively poor countries. We also look at characteristics of elections themselves, including the margin of victory, the presence of observers, and allegations of vote fraud. Results show that while elections can sometimes spark violence, free and fair elections in genuinely democratic contexts are much less conflict prone, while illiberal elections are especially problematic. We do not find that current or recent armed conflict on a country’s territory makes elections more violent.


Africa Elections Violence Protest 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of North TexasDentonUSA

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