Constituting Institutions: The Electoral System in Egypt

On November 28, 2011, Egyptians went to the polls to begin electing a new parliament in three stages. It was in many respects the first genuine democratic election ever to be held in the country. Yet a number of momentous institutional decisions remain to be made that may affect the direction of Egyptian politics and society for years to come. Many of these will be foundational constitutional questions about the relationship between religion and state, particularly the degree to which Islamic law will be the source of legislation. But Egypt must also settle on a method for electing its representatives, and the universe of electoral laws is quite large.

Votes and Violence: Evidence from a Field Experiment in Nigeria

Elections are now common in low-income societies. However, they are frequently flawed. We investigate a Nigerian election marred by violence. We designed and conducted a nationwide field experiment based on anti-violence campaigning. The campaign appealed to collective action through electoral participation, and worked through town meetings, popular theatres and door-to-door distribution of materials. We find that the campaign decreased violence perceptions and increased empowerment to counteract violence. We observe a rise in voter turnout and infer that the intimidation was dissociated from incumbents. These effects are accompanied by a reduction in the intensity of actual violence, as measured by journalists.

The conventional wisdom in political science is that for a democracy to be consolidated, all groups must have a chance to attain power. If they do not then they will subvert democracy and choose to fight for power. In this paper we show that this wisdom is seriously incomplete because it considers absolute, not relative payoffs. Although the probability of winning an election increases with the size of a group, so does the probability of winning a fight. Thus in a situation where all groups have a high chance of winning an election, they may also have a high chance of winning a fight. Indeed, in a natural model, we show that democracy may never be consolidated in such a situation. Rather, democracy may only be stable when one group is dominant. We provide a test of a key aspect of our model using data from “La Violencia”, a political conflict in Colombia during the years 1946-1950 between the Liberal and Conservative parties. Consistent with our results, and contrary to the conventional wisdom, we show that fighting between the parties was more intense in municipalities where the support of the parties was more evenly balanced.

Non-discriminatory Rules and Ethnic Representation: The Election of the Bosnian State Presidency

The electoral system for the state presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina guarantees the representation of the three constituent people, Bosniaks, Serbs and Croats, but it violates the political rights of other ethnic minorities and of citizens who do not identify themselves with any ethnic group. Following the 2009 judgment of the European Court of Human Rights, Bosnia was urged to reform its electoral law. This paper discusses alternative practices of ethnically based political representation and their possible application in the Bosnian state presidency elections. Several innovative electoral models that satisfy fair political and legal criteria for desirable electoral dynamics in divided societies can be envisaged in the Bosnian context. Specifically, these are: the introduction of a single countrywide electoral district, the adoption of the single non-transferable vote, and the application of a geometrical mean rule. They guarantee the representation of the three constituent people, while strengthening inter-ethnic voting and giving chances to non-nationalist candidates to be elected.