The Role of the International Community

Hellmüller, Sara. (2011) The Role of the International Community. In: Ballots or Bullets: Potentials and Limitations of Elections in Conflict Contexts. Bern, pp. 59-67.

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¨In a post-conflict context, elections are supposed to re-establish a legitimate government and a lawful state. Yet, it has also been acknowledged that democratic elections – especially if conducted too early in the process – can run counter the long term goal of stability and peace (De Zeeuw & Kumar, 2006: 12). As the recent examples of presidential elections in Afghanistan (2004/2009) or Guinea (2010) show, elections can fuel tensions and lead to a re-eruption of violence. Considering these risks, why do international actors still fiercely promote elections in many post-conflict contexts? Elections can constitute an exit strategy for international actors. After a transition period, they symbolize a clearly identifiable milestone and marker of success on the road to stability and peace. If a peacekeeping mission has been established in the country, elections can be a justification for its withdrawal because they provide the international community with a legitimately elected counterpart. In Sisk’s (1999: 145) words: “elections […] have become a condition […] as the crowning event of a peace process after which external parties draw down their engagement.” Drawing on existing research on elections, this article summarizes the panel discussion at the swisspeace annual conference. The panel addressed the role of the international community in the support and observation of elections in post-conflict societies. The four panellists, Andrew Bruce (United Nations), Elizabeth Côté (International Foundation for Electoral Systems, Guinea), Markus Leitner (Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs) and Citha Maass (German Institute for International and Security Affairs) discussed the question of how the international community can assess the ripeness of a country to hold elections and what standards can be applied to electoral support missions and elections themselves. Therefore, the article first tackles the issue of the timing of elections. Even though it has been acknowledged that rushing elections is counterproductive to a credible electoral process, compromises still have to be made between postponement of elections and losing momentum or raising suspicion about the commitment of national and international actors to a democratic change. In a second part, the article delves into the question of different possibilities for international electoral support as well as principles that are applied to assess electoral processes in post-conflict contexts.
Faculties and Departments:04 Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences > Departement Gesellschaftswissenschaften > Fachbereich Politikwissenschaft > Politikwissenschaft (Goetschel)
09 Associated Institutions > swisspeace foundation
UniBasel Contributors:Hellmüller, Sara Anna
Item Type:Conference or Workshop Item
Conference or workshop item Subtype:Conference Paper
Publisher:swisspeace Foundation
Note:Publication type according to Uni Basel Research Database: Conference paper
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Last Modified:23 Aug 2021 12:08
Deposited On:23 Aug 2021 12:08

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