ISBN: 978-0-691-23132-7

Mauricio Rivera

Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO)

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Over the last few decades, social science research has made significant progress in understanding why civil wars start and end. However, we know less about post-war politics: why and how insurgent groups that engaged in mass atrocities during civil wars succeed in democratic elections in the post-war period. Conventional wisdom suggests that elections after civil wars can fuel political instability and provoke the resurgence of civil war. Sarah Zukerman Daly challenges this view, arguing that violent victors are more persuasive for the electorate than less violent actors who lost the war, or nonviolent actors that were not involved in the civil war. Based on extensive fieldwork, in-depth interviews in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Nicaragua, and a survey experiment of victims and non-victims of the Colombian civil war, Daly presents compelling evidence that, in casting their vote, citizens look back but not to punish violent victors for their atrocities and violence in the past, but to reward them for establishing and assuring peace. These findings seem to be generalizable. Using original data on civil war successor parties, Daly presents cross-country evidence that violent victors have performed well in post-war elections across the world over the period 1970–2015. The theory and the evidence presented in this book suggest that citizens in post-war countries are willing to trade off justice (not to sanction war atrocities) for the consolidation of peace (to avoid conflict resurgence). This can hinder the development of a liberal democracy. This book is a must read for students of civil wars, elections, democracy, and state building.