Dissertation Defense: Bernard Asakiba Atieme Banner

Dissertation Defense: Bernard Asakiba Atieme

Friday, July 12, 2024

12:00 PM - 01:30 PM

Room 5183

3434 Washington Blvd, Arlington, VA, USA

"Politics of the Belly: Why People Participate in Election Violence"


Studies suggest that eighty-six percent of African countries have experienced election violence at some point in their democratization process. Meanwhile, an overwhelming majority of Africans prefer democracy over other forms of government. This contradiction of African democratic attitudes and political behavior raises several critical questions, including why people engage in election violence. Extant literature suggests election violence is a means political elites use to maintain or gain political power. Supposing power is the goal of election violence; party activists and supporters are not direct recipients of power in this scenario and, therefore, should have no incentive to participate in a fight that does not benefit them directly. Less is known about the motivations of the party rank and file, who are the primary suppliers of election violence. This study fills this crucial gap by examining two key questions: (a) Why do party activists participate in election violence? (b) When and how do party elites and activists co-produce election violence? Drawing insights from 158 interviewees consisting of party activists and supporters of the two major political parties in Ghana, the study finds that when it is difficult for people to access the state without a party card, they may seek alliances with political elites in return for special favors. Since these special favors cannot be accomplished without the party in power, when the stakes of the elections are high, party supporters would resort to violence, to ensure a win for their party. This research contributes to the understanding of clientelism as an agent model of election violence at the lower level and explains how political elites and party supporters co-produce election violence. It also highlights the election security challenges faced by emerging democracies. Building trust in the electoral system and creating proper electoral resolution systems to address electoral conflicts will significantly reduce party activists' incentives to participate in election violence.  

List of committee members:

  1. Thomas E. Flores, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Conflict Resolution and Political Science, Carter School for Peace and Conflict Resolution
  2. Terrence Lyons, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Conflict Resolution, Carter School for Peace and Conflict Resolution
  3. Dorina A. Bekoe, Ph.D., Research Staff Member, Africa Program, Institute for Defense Analyses


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