Violent Victors: Why Bloodstained Parties Win Postwar Elections

Processo de la Paz

Sarah Zukerman Daly
Associate Professor of Political Science
Columbia University

A great puzzle of electoral politics is how parties that commit mass atrocities in war often win the support of victimized populations to establish the postwar political order. This project traces how parties derived from violent, wartime belligerents successfully campaign as the best providers of future societal peace, attracting votes not just from their core supporters but oftentimes also from the citizens targeted in war. Drawing on more than two years of fieldwork, the project combines case studies of victim voters in Latin America with experimental survey evidence and new data on postwar elections around the world. It argues that, contrary to oft-cited fears, post conflict elections do not necessarily give rise to renewed instability or political violence. The project demonstrates how war-scarred citizens reward belligerent parties for promising peace and security instead of blaming them for war. Yet, in so casting their ballots, voters sacrifice justice, liberal democracy, and social welfare. Proposing actionable interventions that can help to moderate these trade-offs, the project links war outcomes with democratic outcomes to shed essential new light on political life after war and offers global perspectives on important questions about electoral behavior in the wake of mass violence.

Presented by the Kellogg Institute Research Cluster on Democratization Theory.