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The power of arms: rethinking armed parties and democratization through the Palestinian elections

Journal article
Authors Ellen Lust
Matthew Longo
Published in Democratization
Volume 19
Issue 2
Pages 258-285
ISSN 1351-0347
Publication year 2012
Published at Department of Political Science
Pages 258-285
Language en
Keywords democratization, political parties, civil war, armed parties, balance of power
Subject categories Political Science


This article examines the role of armed parties in democratization. Usually considered volatile and thus excluded from the democratic process, we argue instead that in certain circumstances, armed parties can have a productive role in elections aimed at democratization – most notably by contributing to the balance of power between incumbents and opposition, both before, during and after elections. An in-depth analysis of the 2006 Palestinian elections, placed in comparative context, shows how arms affect the calculus of voters, opposition elites, and incumbents to make elections more competitive and democracy more likely. The article then directly addresses the objection that postponing disarmament fosters civil war, arguing rather that postponing disarmament may actually help promote peaceful, democratic outcomes of states emerging from civil war. It concludes by discussing the implication of the analysis for the study of democratization and for policies aimed at democracy promotion.

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