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Electoral Systems and Conflict in Divided Societies

Reilly, B. and Reynolds, A. (2000) Electoral Systems and Conflict in Divided Societies. In: Stern, Paul C. and Druckman,, Daniel, (eds.) International Conflict Resolution After the Cold War. National Academy Press, Washington DC, USA, pp. 420-482.

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This work examines whether the choice of an electoral system in a culturally plural society can affect the potential for future violent conflict. We find that it can, but that there is no single electoral system that is likely to be best for all divided societies. We distinguish four basic strategies of electoral system design. The optimal choice for peacefully managing conflict depends on several identifiable factors specific to the country, including the way and degree to which ethnicity is politicized, the intensity of conflict, and the demographic and geographic distribution of ethnic groups. In addition, the electoral system that is most appropriate for initially ending internal conflict may not be the best one for longer-term conflict management. In short, while electoral systems can be powerful levers for shaping the content and practice of politics in divided societies, their design is highly sensitive to context. Consideration of the relationship between these variables and the operation of different electoral systems enables the development of contingent generalizations that can assist policy makers in the field of electoral system design.

Item Type: Book Chapter
Murdoch Affiliation(s): Sir Walter Murdoch School of Public Policy and International Affairs
Publisher: National Academy Press
Copyright: (c) 2000 National Academy Press
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