Department of Political Science

Merete Bech Seeberg

Fighting your friends? A study of intra-party violence in sub-Saharan Africa

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This article focuses on a less visible and less studied type of political violence, namely violence that occurs within political parties. We use new, district-level data to compare the temporal and spatial dynamics of intra-party violence to those of general election violence across selected sub-Saharan African countries, including both democracies and autocracies, from 1998 to 2016. Relying on cross-national and sub-national analyses, we show that intra-party violence follows a unique pattern. First, unlike general election violence, intra-party violence peaks prior to election day as it is often sparked by individual parties’ candidate nomination processes. Second, low levels of competitiveness – typically theorized to reduce the risk of election violence – increase the risk of intra-party violence on the sub-national level. Thus, dominant party elections do not necessarily see less election-related violence than hotly contested elections. Rather, violence may be pushed from election day to intra-party competitions. If we neglect the study of violence within political parties, we thus risk underestimating the threat of election violence and misdiagnosing its causes.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1033-1051
Number of pages19
Publication statusPublished - 2018

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