140050_IOB_alumni-mag_A4_20140429_final.pdf - Page 8

From to bullets ballots EtC: In the context of post-conflict peacebuilding, elections are considered an essential political solution to violent conflict and a basis for a durable peace. However, in some countries elections did not contribute to a democratic state nor peace building but rather rekindled conflicts (for example, in Burundi in 1993, Togo in 2005 or more recently in Iraq or Egypt). Why? What are the elements and circumstances that can lead to further conflict during and after elections in postconflict countries? SV: I think that there is no general answer. Each case requires a thorough understanding of what went wrong and what was successful in the particular circumstances – which already is one lesson learned. We can promote the general idea of the elections but when it comes down to operationalizing that idea in a particular context, we should allow for some flexibility, both in the institutional translation as well as in the power politics behind it. cannot ensure independence from any political interference, the credibility of the elections will always be questioned. Timelines are often totally unrealistic. In the recent past, elections were held in Libya and Egypt but I don’t think those countries are better off today. So yes, you can have elections but if the necessary ingredients for democracy are not present it will not bring a sustainable democracy. EtC: But if we wouldn’t follow these unrealistic timelines and we would postpone elections, meanwhile, what do you do? AB: I am not saying that we should always wait. It is not morally acceptable to prevent people that want to choose their leaders to have elections only because systems are not ready. If we look at elections across the world, we can always find fraud. The issue is not always waiting or not. In a hundred years, we won’t have everything in place to have the perfect elections. It is up to the international community and local people to make the judgemen t of when people will vote. SV: What we often see happening on the ground is power-sharing, i.e. negotiated settlement resulting in some kind of intermediate government with political and military power-sharing involved. Now there are many con’s and some pro’s for the use of power-sharing in the immediate aftermath. Its main benefits – at least to short term stability – are sharing the cake among elites, negotiating quota, etc. But of course, that’s just postponing the real matter which is about building a credible, accountable, legitimate public authority. So power-sharing is a temporary measure which has some benefits but, at the same time, it can send a disastrous signal, that is: as long as you use violence and you are sufficiently successful, you can negotiate yourself into power, irrespective of what people really want. For example, in Kenya and Zimbabwe power-sharing was used as a temporary response and advocated by the African Union after failed elections or contested elections. When in 2010 the opposition was about to lose the elections in Burundi, it immediately referred to Kenya and Zimbabwe and said ‘let’s negotiate, let’s establish a government of national utility’. What we see is that the cases of Kenya and Zimbabwe had sent the wrong signal and had become a model. Fortunately, the African Union now resists the temptation of power-sharing in situations in which elections are contested. But again it’s about balancing between The role of democratic elections in peace building and state building processes. Who? Andrew Bradley is the Director of the Office of the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (International IDEA) to the EU in Brussels, Belgium. He was previously the Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs and Human Development of the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group of States. He has also served as a diplomat in various positions, including Deputy Director, First Secretary and Counsellor South African Department of Foreign Affairs, Pretoria, Brussels, Geneva and Ottawa. Stef Vandeginste is a lecturer at the Institute of Development Policy and Management (IOB). His research interests include political transitions, peace negotiations, power-sharing, transitional justice and human rights, with a geographical focus on Sub-Sahara Africa and Burundi in particular. 8 AB: There is a tendency to think that elections will solve everything. Elections are an important first step but the examples you mentioned show a tendency to sometimes rush into elections. It is a very delicate balance between whether the time is right to hold elections or if it is perhaps better to wait a bit. It is very situational and context-specific. EtC: What about the role of the international community? AB: The international community needs to play a role in post-conflict situations but the most important is what do people want. Democracy cannot be exported, but grows from within. Democracy is also a process. One first needs to make sure that the political environment is conducive for elections. The timing of the elections in a post-conflict state is also linked with sequencing, i.e. what are the steps: will there first be presidential elections or assembly elections? Then, the mechanisms of the process: how well is the elections’ management body equipped? If the elections are not well administered and if they using power-sharing where it’s the only temporary alternative and not too strongly advocating the model. EtC: Are there solutions/processes other than elections that can lead to the sustainable maintenance of peace? SV: Honestly, I don’t see any real alternatives to elections. What has been done - increasingly successfully - are “guided elections”, i.e. elections that take place within a certain preset format. You can, for instance, design your electoral system in such a way that there is a guaranteed representation of certain groups. So, you build in certain levels of representation irrespective of what the elections bring as a result. In Belgium we are quite familiar with things such as proportional representation and guaranteed representation of minorities. They are put in place to soften the potentially destabilizing effects that elections can have. EtC: And this is not what happened in Burundi? SV: That was one of the problems in Burundi in 1993 when all of a sudden, part of the outgoing elites realized that after the elections there was no guarantee of a strong political survival. Then they staged a coup d’état shortly after the elections which they had lost. Today, the elections in this country don’t have that kind of revolutionary effect anymore: whatever the outcome of the election looks like, part of the old elites still remains in power. EtC: In Rwanda, Paul Kagame has been the country’s President since 1994. He is credited with leading a remarkable recovery from war and genocide, in economic terms but also in terms of peace-building. Although Rwanda is officially a democracy where elections are regularly held, in fact, the President is seen by many as a dictator not only because he has been in power for 20 years and aggressively bars most opposition parties from participating in elections but also because he is considered responsible for many human rights abuses and for the deaths of several investigators, journalists and opposition politicians. Is a dictatorship sometimes a better option than liberal democracy in order to maintain peace and stability? AB: First of all, Kagame cannot run for presidency again according to the constitution. At the end of the day, I think the constitution provides the framework to have the rule of law functioning, which is a part of the democracy plate. In Rwanda, 9