Political Transitions after Peace Agreements: The Importance of Consultative and Inclusive Political Processes

This essay examines the transitional periods following peace agreements and leading to elections and new constitutions. It discusses the advantages of gradually expanding political participation during these periods, despite the arguments of several scholars that political liberalization in the absence of strong state institutions carries significant risks. The article argues that political participation in transitional periods may be expanded through inclusive elite consultations on issues such as elections, vetting of institutions and new constitutions, and through wider national dialogue efforts including civil society. The essay recognizes the risks of premature elections, but argues that the goal of reforming state institutions cannot be achieved in the absence of a national political process. This argument relies on the insights of the constitution-making literature, namely that lasting institutions tend to result from lengthy and inclusive constitution-making processes. It also relies on the civil war settlement literature according to which belligerents need credible guarantees that their interests will be protected in the post-agreement period before laying down their arms. The essay argues that guaranteed inclusion in the transitional process and influence over the outcome of the transition offers such assurances to former belligerents that their interests will be respected in the new political reality.

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