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The Ethnic Conflict Research Digest

1999, Vol. 2 No. 1 .


Postconflict Elections, Democratization and International Assistance
Edited by Krishna Kumar

(Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner, 1998)
265pp. Index. Bibl. 39.95; ISBN 1-55587-755-9. Pb.: 15.95; ISBN 1-55587-7-778-9.



This volume is the third in a series of evaluation studies directed by Krishna Kumar of USAID and concerned with the transition from civil war to peace. The volume presents eight case studies of post conflict elections. Practically all of the case studies - El Salvador (Baloyra), Nicaragua (two studies, Lopez-Pintor and McCoy), Haiti (Nelson), Cambodia (Brown), Ethiopia (Harbeson), Angola (Ottaway), Mozambique (Turner, Nelson and Mahling-Clark) and Liberia (Lyons) - are of countries having at least some experience of ethnic conflict.

The case studies do not engage ethnicity as such. There are only a few references to it: for example in the chapter on El Salvador Baloyra reports that there were no ethnic factions to be reconciled but he recognises that the timing and the nature of elections have to be adjusted to take into account the individual circumstances applying in each country. Indeed he comments that "Elections following a civil war driven by ideological considerations may have much more greater efficacy than those driven by ethnic hatred."(p. 32).

Overall the volume examines the critical role of the international community in the provision of technical and financial assistance in the planning, organisation and certification of postconflict elections. It acknowledges that "...the role that elections play in postconflict settings has emerged as a topic of controversy among some analysts and policy makers...elections do not always result in a cessation of hostilities or the establishment of an environment conductive to economic, social or even political reconstruction."(p. 1).

Kumar and Ottaway respond by rethinking elections and suggesting the need to explore tow questions: "What conditions must exist before elections are held? And, what can be doe to consolidate peace and promote democracy if elections do not appear advisable in the immediate future?"(p. 234). These are not new questions. The answers must surely include the role of ethnicity.


Patrick A Bradley, The Chief Electoral Officer for Northern Ireland



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