Electing Violence? The Causes of Electoral Violence in Africa

Project Leader

Kristine Höglund, Professor

Project Period

2011 – 2016

Other Project Employees

Hanne Fjelde, Associate Professor

Project Description

This project studies the circumstances under which electoral contestation leads to violence. The project advances the knowledge on electoral violence in two significant ways. First, it uses new conflict event data from the Uppsala Conflict Data Program to conduct the first comprehensive analysis of the frequency and determinants of political violence in association with elections in Africa in the 1989 to 2008 period. Second, it will carry out a qualitative analysis of African countries, including Kenya and South Africa.

To understand electoral violence, the project will develop theories related to:

  • the functioning of informal institutions for creating incentives for violent electoral contest (especially the implication of politics ordered by hierarchical patron-client relationship)
  • weak formal institutions, which encourages electoral violence through the manipulation of democratic institutions.

The relevance of the research pertains both to the advancement of knowledge on the democracy-violence nexus and to policy for how to address the causes of electoral violence. Electoral violence has a number of negative influences on individuals and on societies. It threatens to undermine the democratic system by defying the very notion of democratic norms based on tolerance and non-violence. It is associated with corruption and underdevelopment. In some countries, election-related violence has served as a training ground for civil war. In essence, electoral violence hampers individual safety and wealth.


Fjelde, Hanne and Kristine Höglund 2016. “Electoral Institutions and Electoral Violence in Sub-Saharan Africa.British Journal of Political Science 46(2): 297-320.

Fjelde, Hanne and Kristine Höglund, 2016. “Electoral Violence: The Emergence of a Research Field.” APSA Comparative Democratization Newsletter 14(2). 

Fjelde, Hanne and Kristine Höglund, 2016. ”När val leder till konflikt.” In Krig Fred: RJ:s årsbok 2016/2017, edited by J. Björkman and A. Jarrick. Göteborg/Stockholm: Makadam förlag, 59-66.

Fjelde, Hanne and Kristine Höglund, 2016. “Here’s One Way to Prevent Electoral Violence.Monkey Cage, April 27.

Fjelde, Hanne and Kristine Höglund, 2016. ”Våld vid valurnorna – vad beror det på?” Mänsklig säkerhet, June 1.

Brosché, J. and K. Höglund (2016). "Crisis of Governance in South Sudan: Electoral Politics and Violence in the World's Newest Nation." Journal of Modern African Studies 54(1): 67-90.

Anna K. Jarstad and Kristine Höglund, 2015. "Local Violence and Politics in KwaZulu-Natal: Perceptions of Agency in a Post-Conflict Society, Third World Quarterly, 36(5): 967-984

Opitz Christian, Hanne Fjelde, and Kristine Höglund. 2013. 'Including Peace: The Influence of Electoral Management Bodies on Electoral Violence.' Journal of Eastern African Studies (7)4: 713-731.

Höglund, Kristine and Hanne Fjelde, 2013. ’Fredslobotomi eller hållbar demokrati? Kenya framtid osäker trots fredliga val.’ Internationella studier 2: 10-12.

Höglund, Kristine, 2011. 'Priset för demokrati får inte bli våldsamma val.' Tvärsnitt (3-4): 32-35. 

Related Publications

Höglund, Kristine, and Anna K. Jarstad, 2010. ‘Strategies to Prevent and Manage Electoral Violence: Considerations for Policy.’ Policy and Practice Brief, ACCORD, no. 1. Available online www.accord.org.za.

Höglund, Kristine, 2009. ‘Electoral Violence: Causes, Concepts and Consequences’. Terrorism and Political Violence 21 (3): 412-427.

Höglund, Kristine, and Anton Piyarathne. 2009. ‘Paying the Price of Patronage: Electoral Violence in Sri Lanka’. Commonwealth and Comparative Politics 47 (3): 287-307.

Höglund, Kristine, 2009. ‘Elections and Violence in Sri Lanka: Understanding Variation across Three Parliamentary Elections,’ in Swain, Ashok, Rames Amer, and Joakim Öjendahl, eds., The Democratization Project: Opportunities and Challenges, London: Anthem Press

Höglund, Kristine, 2008. ‘Violence in War-to-Democracy Transitions’, in Anna Jarstad & Timothy D. Sisk, eds., War-to-Democracy Transitions: Dilemmas of Peacebuilding. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

Fjelde, Hanne. “Patronage politics and Non-state Conflict in Africa: A Sub-national Study of Nigeria”. Unpublished manuscript, Department of Peace and Conflict Research, Uppsala University.

Main Financial Support

Vetenskapsrådet (The Swedish Research Council)

Related Research

Causes of Peace

Uppsala Conflict Data Program

Programme on Governance, Conflict and Peacebuilding

Patrimonialism, Globalization, and Civil Conflict

The Strong Peace Project