Can Constitutional Reform Constrain Electoral Violence?

 Can Constitutional Reform Constrain Electoral Violence?

Constitution-making is promoted as a means to encourage democratisation and peaceful politics. However, there is a dearth of studies investigating whether, and if so under which conditions, constitutional reform can induce such positive outcomes. This study suggests that constitutional reform can constrain electoral violence if the process entails negotiation between political elites, and its content increases executive constraints. I test this claim in a matched analysis of 155 constitutional reforms from 1946-2015. The analysis shows that constitutional reforms that result from negotiated agreements between representatives of distinct groups and constrain the executive’s ability to enact a state of emergency are associated with lower levels of ensuing government-perpetrated violence. By contrast, these measures have no association with electoral violence carried out by non-government actors. The findings have important implications for the design of constitution-making processes promoting peaceful government conduct while highlighting the need for alternative measures to constrain other electoral violence.

Gudlaug Olafsdottir is a PhD Candidate at the Department of Peace and Conflict Research Uppsala University in Sweden. Her compilation dissertation broadly investigates electoral violence and how it influences democratization. Her research hones in on how citizens’ attitudes toward democracy and elections are affected by electoral violence, and how electoral violence influences and is influenced by constitutional reform. Prior to starting her PhD, Gudlaug worked in the ViEWS research team at Uppsala University using statistical methods to forecast conflict risk across Africa and coded electoral violence across the world for the DECO project. Her work has been published in Environmental Reserach Letters and the Journal of Peace Research, as well as in one of Women In International Security’s policy brief series. She has also briefly worked at the headquarters of International IDEA in Stockholm, done consultancy for the Dag Hammarskjöld foundation, and has been seconded by Sweden as an election observer in three OSCE election monitoring missions.


Date & time

Thu 29 Feb 2024, 11am–12.30pm


RSSS Room 3.72 or Online via Zoom


Gudlaug Olafsdottir (University in Sweden)


Richard Frank


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