Preparations for Tuesday's parliamentary elections in the United States were hampered by violence.
Cesar Sayoc, 56, of Aventura, Florida, is accused of sending at least a dozen pipe bombs to President Trump's political enemies, including leading Democratic leaders, and to CNN. Louisville-based Gregory Bush, 51, is accused of shooting down two black shoppers at a Kentucky grocery store after failing to pursue his plan to shoot down black believers in a church. Police say 46-year-old Robert D. Bowers from Pittsburgh opened fire at a city synagogue and killed eleven.
These incidents, some of which were manifestly political, have marginal voters. Could you influence the election result?
Researchers have tried to answer this question in the past by unraveling the relationship between political violence and elections.
In a study, researchers wanted to find out how violence affects democracy in Africa. The team examined 300 elections held in Africa from 1990 to 2014 in sub-Saharan Africa and found that about 50% of electoral violence took place. In most cases, the violence was harassment and intimidation of voters and candidates. About a third of the time took the form of political assassinations. In almost all cases, there was violence before the elections, as in the United States this year.
The researchers believed that voter turnout would decrease if voters feared for their safety, but they found that this was not the case. "At first glance, our findings make no sense. Coercion and intimidation should discourage voters from voting that they fear will be violent, "she wrote in a Washington Post article. However, the results showed that "there is really no systemic difference in electoral turnout between elections where the election campaign was peaceful and in elections where violence took place."
"Oppositionists who are afraid of electoral violence actually tend to report higher electoral intentions in future elections than those who are not afraid of violence," wrote one of the researchers, Stephanie M. Burchard, in an e-mail to the Post Office. "For self-determined" independent "voters who are afraid of electoral violence, they also tend to vote more often in the future and choose the party they consider non-violent. Ultimately, I believe that violence can increase the resolve of the opposition's supporters and independents, and make some voters punish those who believe they are behind the violence, usually the ruling party. "
David Muchlinski, professor of political science at Georgia Tech, offered a parallel to the Philippines, where local militias are either hired directly or encouraged by politicians to attack their opponents at electoral time. In the United States, according to Muchlinski, extremists are being attacked by Trump and the Republican Party.
But here ends the similarities.
"The line between legitimate politics and violence in a country like the Philippines is almost blurred, so it does not really exist," Muchlinksi said. That's not the case here, he said – at least not yet. "The United States has a problem, but they have not yet crossed the Rubicon, where violence has been intertwined with legitimate politics," he said.
Sarah Birch, founder of the Electoral Violence Project, added that the response to pre-election violence in the United States is usually one unit and no longer calls for conflict. "After unusual violence, you often see people behind peace claims to make sure nothing happens again," she said.
Ultimately, it can be difficult for a regime to predict the effects of violence. Other types of election manipulation – stuffing ballot boxes, presenting phantom ballots, paying people to vote in a certain way – are often much more reliable.
Violence is "not a last effort," Muchlinski said. "But it's the most expensive. Regimes only use force if they are reasonably sure that other voting methods do not work. "
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