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The geography of violence during a presidential election: Evidence from Zimbabwe


  • Fielding, David


Successful election monitoring depends on the ability to predict where violence will be used to intimidate voters. However, the strategy of a violent electoral candidate will depend on the particular characteristics of the election, including (i) whether other candidates are able to organize violence, (ii) whether the outcome depends on nationwide voting shares or shares in individual electoral districts, and (iii) how costly it is to transport the resources used to perpetrate violent acts. Although there is already ample theory and evidence for some combinations of these characteristics, analysis of other combinations is still lacking. This paper presents a theory designed to analyse strategy in an election in which the outcome depends on nationwide voting shares and only one candidate is able to organize violence, distinguishing between the case of costless transportation and the case in which transportation is prohibitively costly. The theory predicts that in the case of costly transportation with constant returns to scale, violence will be targeted at areas where support for the opposition is relatively low. Evidence suggests that the second round of the 2008 presidential election in Zimbabwe corresponds to such a case, and statistical analysis of the geographical distribution of violence around the time of the election indicates that areas of opposition weakness did indeed suffer more violence.

Suggested Citation

  • Fielding, David, 2018. "The geography of violence during a presidential election: Evidence from Zimbabwe," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 55(C), pages 538-558.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:poleco:v:55:y:2018:i:c:p:538-558
    DOI: 10.1016/j.ejpoleco.2018.05.004

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. James A. Robinson & Ragnar Torvik, 2009. "The Real Swing Voter's Curse," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 99(2), pages 310-315, May.
    2. Paul Collier & Pedro C. Vicente, 2014. "Votes and Violence: Evidence from a Field Experiment in Nigeria," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 124(574), pages 327-355, February.
    3. Ashish Chaturvedi, 2005. "Rigging elections with violence," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 125(1), pages 189-202, July.
    4. Paul Collier & Pedro Vicente, 2012. "Violence, bribery, and fraud: the political economy of elections in Sub-Saharan Africa," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 153(1), pages 117-147, October.
    5. White, Halbert, 1980. "A Heteroskedasticity-Consistent Covariance Matrix Estimator and a Direct Test for Heteroskedasticity," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 48(4), pages 817-838, May.
    6. Dercon, Stefan & Gutiérrez-Romero, Roxana, 2012. "Triggers and Characteristics of the 2007 Kenyan Electoral Violence," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 40(4), pages 731-744.
    7. Hafner-Burton, Emilie M. & Hyde, Susan D. & Jablonski, Ryan S., 2014. "When Do Governments Resort to Election Violence?," British Journal of Political Science, Cambridge University Press, vol. 44(1), pages 149-179, January.
    8. Przeworski, Adam & Rivero, Gonzalo & Xi, Tianyang, 2015. "Elections as a conflict processing mechanism," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 39(C), pages 235-248.
    9. Joao Ricardo Faria & Daniel Arce, 2005. "Terror Support And Recruitment," Defence and Peace Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 16(4), pages 263-273.
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    Cited by:

    1. Sarah Birch & Ursula Daxecker & Kristine Höglund, 2020. "Electoral violence: An introduction," Journal of Peace Research, Peace Research Institute Oslo, vol. 57(1), pages 3-14, January.

    More about this item


    Elections; Voter intimidation; Zimbabwe;

    JEL classification:

    • D72 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Political Processes: Rent-seeking, Lobbying, Elections, Legislatures, and Voting Behavior
    • D74 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Conflict; Conflict Resolution; Alliances; Revolutions


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