How and Why Armed Groups Participate in Elections
Posted: 1 Dec 2017
Date Written: February 1, 2017
Armed groups engage in elections in many regimes, and, in doing so, they pursue a surprisingly diverse array of electoral strategies. In this paper, we explore the strategies that armed actors seek to change electoral politics, and we identify four distinct electoral strategies by armed groups, compared to nonparticipation. We theorize that the specific dimensions on which participation types differ are directness, i.e. whether or not the armed group runs its own candidates in elections, and openness, i.e. whether or not the armed group makes official statements expressing electoral positions publicly. The strategies include openly fusing bullets and ballots to form an armed political party, controlling a political wing that stands candidates in elections, openly targeting particular parties or politicians, and secretly providing resources for separate parties. In contrast, some groups choose instead to target all parties and politicians or ignore electoral politics. Beyond laying out this new typology, and providing examples, we explore a first important question in this research area: why groups pursue different strategies. We argue, and show evidence in diverse case studies, that the support and cohesion of the armed groups, government tolerance, and party cleavages drive armed actors’ electoral strategies.
Keywords: armed groups, armed actors, rebels, terrorists, elections, boycotts, sabotage, electoral violence, election violence
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