‘Elections at Risk’

Creative Panel Urges Preparedness for Elections in Conflict Environments

May 29, 2007

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Creative Associates International, Inc. recently hosted “Elections at Risk,” a panel discussion that benefited from the insights of three experts – Jeff Fischer, Jarrett Blanc and Stephen Anderton – who revealed the latest findings on how the international community can – by ensuring security – help assure successful elections in conflict and post-conflict environments.

“Elections at Risk” was a joint undertaking by the Creative Center for Security and Stabilization (C2S2) and ArmorGroup International, a security firm. With increasing recognition that development often takes place in environments compromised by conflict, Creative founded C2S2 to advance policy on the correlation between security and development.

As a new initiative, C2S2 seeks to identify critical intersections of the development and security nexus to better design and implement development activities worldwide. Because elections are considered to be a policy instrument to address conflict, C2S2’s April 4th event sought to delineate how the military, civilians and international experts can collaborate to create safe environments, where emerging democracies can elect new and legitimate leadership.

Held at Creative’s headquarters, “Elections at Risk” was moderated by Professor John Stuart Blackton, Senior Advisor to C2S2.

Calling “Elections at Risk” a “timely” topic, Blanc, an International Affairs Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, said that the dynamics of elections and insecurity begs the question: How might elections effect the overall security environment?

All three experts agreed that incentives – political, developmental and financial – can play a key role in mitigating unwanted responses to holding free and fair elections in societies emerging from conflict. But according to Blanc ― some situations require “overwhelming military force” such as in Afghanistan, which has a disconnect between warring factions and the electoral process. Military intervention in such instances can give policy makers a range of options as to where, when and how elections can take place. Otherwise “more limited military interventions can limit this range,” said Blanc, who is currently researching elections conducted during civil conflict.

Fischer, who is Team Leader for Elections and Political Processes at Creative Associates, cautions: “As forces demobilize, how do we determine who are the good guys and who are the bad guys, and how do we segregate the groups?”

Citing Haiti, Fischer noted, “those loyal to Duvalier were prevented from contesting elections for 10 years after they were ousted.” He added that “punitive actions must be backed up by an institution so as to validate the exclusion.”

To Blanc, there are different kinds of insecure environments which might cause electoral violence. They include ongoing conflict such as civil war, incipient and post-conflict states and failure of the rule of law.

Blanc referred to Lebanon as a post-conflict state and believes that “elections there will probably force a return to civil war,” largely due to shortfalls in the power sharing arrangement. [The Taif Accord ended Lebanon’s 15-year civil and international war.] For elections to occur, international actors must consider the power-sharing arrangements Lebanon’s political structure is based on, along with existing politica

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