Elections are supposed to function as a peaceful means for making decisions and settling political differences. But they do not always function in this way: sometimes, they trigger political violence. Especially ethnically divided societies are often thought to be prone to such dynamics. This paper presents a comparative analysis of the 2007 Kenyan elections and the 2006 and 2011 elections in Zambia. Working with these cases, it asks, first, whether the presence of ethnic diversity must lead to violence around election time. In a second step, the paper then refines this question to ask under what conditions ethnic diversity tends to lead to election violence, considering factors such as the electoral system, the numerical balance of ethnic groups, the closeness of elections, economic, social, and historical background conditions, and elite strategies, as well as how these factors might interact with one another
To start with, we cannot proceed by talking about how ethnic diversity led to violence around election time and under what conditions did election violence emerge before actually defining ethnicity, ethnic diversity and its role in Africa and especially in both Kenya and Zambia.
Ethnicity is when a group of people share the same background, race, culture, norms or values. They live together in closed communities and seek to conserve and protect their cultural and political identities. “Ethnic identity categories, I propose, are a subset of identity categories in which eligibility for membership is determined by descent-based attributes”(Chandra Kanchan;2006;4). Knowing that ethnic diversity means having various ethnicities within the same territory, we have to examine if it preserves the oneness of the community or if it will break out clashes in political cases such as elections.
Ethnic identities are important for populations such as the ones in located in Africa because
they represent traditional bonds between people from the same ethnic group, and they are especially important when it comes to politics or political power, because political leaders take advantage of the ethnic attachments and play a sort of manipulation game to get the people from the same ethnicity to vote “play the ethnic card”(Benn Eifert, Edward Miguel,Daniel Posner,2010,14). Therefore, ethnic identities are a must during the periods around national elections. In this case ethnicity becomes a social identity, the basic of people’s choices especially around election time.
However, over the years a new form of political mobilization has emerged, “ethnopopulism”(Nic Cheeseman,Miles Larmer,2013;1).
Populism is when one sides with the people and not with the elites of the society which usually have political power. Ethnopopulism does not just mean that the opposition of the incumbent sides with the people but also it means working on a specific goal, as to attract the people of the same ethnicity. For example, in Kenya the leader of the...