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Bullets Over Ballots: How Electoral Exclusion Increases the Risk of Coups d'État and Civil Wars

Klaas, Brian P.; (2015) Bullets Over Ballots: How Electoral Exclusion Increases the Risk of Coups d'État and Civil Wars. Doctoral thesis (D.Phil), University of Oxford. Green open access

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Abstract

Does banning opposition candidates from ballots increase the risk that they will turn to bullets instead? Globally, since the end of the Cold War, blatant election rigging tactics (such as ballot box stuffing) are being replaced by 'strategic rigging': subtler procedural manipulations aimed at winning while maintaining the guise of legitimacy in the eyes of international observers. In particular, incumbents (in regimes stuck between democracy and authoritarianism) are turning to 'electoral exclusion', neutralizing key rivals by illegitimately banning certain candidates, in turn reducing the need for cruder forms of election day rigging. I used mixed methods—combining insights from an original global dataset with extensive elite interviews conducted in five countries (Madagascar, Thailand, Tunisia, Zambia, and Côte d'Ivoire)—to establish that electoral exclusion is an attractive short-term election strategy for vulnerable incumbents that produces a much higher chance of victory but comes with high costs in the longer-term. Global probit modeling (using electoral exclusion as an independent variable and coups d'état and civil wars as separate dependent variables) suggests that, since the end of the Cold War, excluding opposition candidates from the ballot roughly doubles the risk of a coup d'état or quadruples the risk of civil war onset. In spite of these risks, incumbents fall into this 'exclusion trap' because of the shortened time horizon that frequently accompanies competitive multi-party elections. Vulnerable incumbents worry more about the short-term risk of losing an election than the long-term but ultimately unknown risk that political violence will ensue after the election. Finally, the inverse corollary of these findings is that inclusion of opposition candidates during multi-party elections can be a stabilizing factor. Though it may seem counterintuitive, fragile 'counterfeit democracies' – and so-called 'transitional' regimes – may be able to stave off existential threats to regime survival by extending an olive branch to their fiercest opponents. These findings combine to form the overarching argument of this dissertation: when opposition candidates are excluded from the ballot, they become more likely to turn to bullets by launching coups d'état and civil wars.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: D.Phil
Title: Bullets Over Ballots: How Electoral Exclusion Increases the Risk of Coups d'État and Civil Wars
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Publisher version: https://ora.ox.ac.uk/objects/uuid:2492d39d-522f-49...
Language: English
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of Arts and Humanities
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of Arts and Humanities > SELCS
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10183522
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