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Time to Kill: The Impact of Election Timing on Postconflict Stability


Journal of Conflict Resolution

Published online on


Elections constitute a fundamental element of postconflict peacebuilding efforts in the post–cold war era and are often held soon after conflicts end. Yet, the impact of early elections on postconflict stability is the subject of sharp debate. While some argue that early elections facilitate peace agreements, hasten democratization, and ensure postconflict stability, others suggest that they undermine genuine democracy and spark a renewal in fighting. In this study, we argue that holding elections soon after a civil war ends generally increases the likelihood of renewed fighting, but that favorable conditions, including decisive victories, demobilization, peacekeeping, power sharing, and strong political, administrative and judicial institutions, can mitigate this risk. We attempt to reconcile the extant qualitative debate on postconflict elections through a quantitative analysis of all civil wars ending in the post–World War II period.