Reassessing the Role of Democracy: Political Institutions and Armed Conflict (PIAC)

Led by Håvard Hegre

Jan 2012 – Dec 2016


​ See for more information. 

If conflict is the problem, is democracy the solution?  Armed conflict and political violence not only results in devastating direct violence, it also impedes growth, threatens public health, and exacerbates poverty. Academic research on the conflict-reducing effects of democratic institutions provides only ambiguous support for a policy of ‘democratization for peace’. We argue that the ambiguous relationship between democracy and conflict is due to a set of theoretical and methodological shortcomings in the literature, including over-aggregation of democracy indicators, a disregard of  the complexity of political institutions, over-reliance on few sources, treatment of actors as uniform, and an insensitivity to how political institutions work indirectly through their impact on other social conditions such as education and economic growth.

The objective of this project is to reassess the role of democratic political institutions for internal armed conflict. This will be pursued by six related ‘work packages’: (1) develop a theoretical model that identifies equilibrium constellations of various components of political institutions and the socio-economic conditions they exist within, (2) collect data on large number of aspects of political institutions and generate indices of the components specified in the theoretical model, (3) looking more critically at the role electoral fraud, electoral violence, and legislative voting behavior, (4) testing the theoretical model’s empirical implications, (5) investigating the indirect and long-term effects of political institutions, and (6) using the knowledge gained in a forecasting model to evaluate the total effect of complex models and the likely impact of a set of possible policy responses. Together, the six approaches will address the methodological shortcomings in the literature and put the knowledge concerning the relationship between democratic political institutions on a considerably more secure footing, theoretically and empirically.

The project collaborates with the Institutions and Elections Project at Binghamton University to update their collection of data on political institutions and practices, and political elections for all countries in the international system to cover the time-span from 1960 through 2011.

Project description

Recent paper presentations:
Democratic Waves? Global Patterns of Democratization, 1816-2008
The Determinants of Democracy: A Sensitivity Analysis

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