How and Why Armed Groups Participate in Elections
50 Pages Posted: 1 Dec 2017 Last revised: 14 Jul 2018
Date Written: February 1, 2017
Armed actors are often involved in electoral politics, from the fusing of ballots and bullets in armed political parties to insurgents covertly backing politicians. This article develops new concepts and theory to better understand these complex relationships between violent actors and democratic practice. It first offers a novel conceptualization of armed groups’ electoral strategies that systematically maps out variation in the organizational directness and public openness of groups’ involvement in elections. The article then uses comparative case studies to develop theory about the conditions under which each of these electoral strategies is most likely, and what can trigger changes between them. The interaction of armed groups’ power and expectations of popular support with governments’ policies of toleration or repression determines the strategies of electoral participation that groups pursue. These concepts and arguments lay the foundation for a systematic research agenda on when and how “normal” and armed politics become intertwined.
Keywords: armed groups, armed actors, rebels, terrorists, elections, boycotts, sabotage, electoral violence, election violence
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