How International Actors Help Enforce Domestic Deals
41 Pages Posted: 18 Jan 2018 Last revised: 15 May 2018
Date Written: January 5, 2018
This paper examines how international actors help enforce political bargains between incumbent governments and their domestic opponents. I argue that opposition parties tend to have trouble trusting the incumbent to adhere to a political bargain over time, and that this extends beyond well-known disarmament problems in post-conflict contexts. A set of commitment problems, “reversion” problems, occur when incumbents can use their asymmetric hold on power during implementation and their familiarity with state institutions to violate terms by maintaining more of the status quo than agreed. I also argue that such reversion problems can be overcome when international actors use elections to obtain information about violations, and then condition incentives such as foreign aid on compliance. The role of international actors is crucial and underexplored in these contexts. Existing work begins to identify when domestic actors can expect such scrutiny — for instance when international actors are interested but not overly invested in a state — but additional study of these conditions would advance this research agenda. Case illustrations of implementing peace agreements’ political provisions, transitioning toward more open democracy, establishing increased electoral integrity, and protecting human rights, help identify reversion problems, theorize about how international actors can help avoid reversion, and explore when their intervention is likely to work.
Keywords: reversion problems, conditional incentives, systemized spotlights, incumbents, credible commitment problems, post-conflict elections, peace agreements, democratic transitions, electoral integrity, human rights, El Salvador
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