How International Actors Help Enforce Domestic Political Bargains
Posted: 18 Jan 2018
Date Written: January 5, 2018
This paper examines how international actors help enforce political bargains between incumbent governments and their domestic opponents. Beyond disarmament problems in post-conflict contexts, I argue that opposition parties tend to have trouble trusting the incumbent to adhere to a political bargain over time: “reversion” problems occur when incumbents can use their asymmetric hold on power during implementation and their familiarity with state institutions to violate terms to which they had agreed. The role of international actors is crucial and underexplored in these contexts: they often provide conditional incentives that help overcome reversion problems. Finally, I argue that domestic actors can expect scrutiny and involvement by international actors given certain state and system characteristics, some of which are identified in existing work, but also when the bargains have design features that produce “systematized spotlights.” Elections, in particular, are largely unrecognized for their role in providing systematic benchmarks and milestones, as well as drawing the international community’s spotlight, which together increase attention and accountability at crucial moments. Using case illustrations on implementing peace agreements’ political provisions, transitioning toward more open democracy, establishing increased electoral integrity, and protecting human rights, this paper identifies reversion problems, theorizes about conditional incentives as a solution, and explores when it works best.
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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