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Elections in post-conflict states: the best way to legitimacy?

Time (GMT +01) 14:00 16:00


Claire Smith, University of York

George Varughese, The Asia Foundation, Nepal

David Harris, University of Bradford

Silas Everett, The Asia Foundation, Cambodia

Lisa Denney, Overseas Development Institute


Alina Rocha Menocal, Overseas Development Institute


Many countries emerging from conflict across the developing world face a daunting challenge. They are trying to build a functioning and effective state; develop more open, inclusive, and representative political orders; and revitalise the link between state and society. In countries embarking on these processes, elections have featured prominently as an essential – and often early – step in building legitimacy and enable citizens to take part in shaping a common future.

Yet elections can also be destabilising and act as detonators of (further) violence and conflict if conditions are not right. This event draws on experience from a variety of post-conflict countries, including Cambodia, East Timor, Liberia, Nepal and Sierra Leone.

We consider:

  • What are the challenges and opportunities embedded in elections in post-conflict settings, and how can dilemmas and trade-offs be managed? 
  • Can elections help foster legitimacy of emerging political orders in post-conflict settings, and if so, how? 
  • What can be learned from young democracies emerging from such processes, and what are the implications for more effective support to post-conflict states seeking to more legitimacy and effectiveness?

For more information about ODI's work on elections, visit our page for the elections initiative.