We offer a novel argument to explain how the use of terrorist violence is affected by the restrictions that governments place on opposition participation in elections. Opposition actors often decide whether and how to participate in elections. Governments influence these decisions by controlling who can contest elections and, by doing so, they influence the access to public support that opponents stand to gain from participating or fighting. “Unrestricted” elections, without limits on who can participate in opposition to the government, represent an opportunity for moderation in politics. This moderation threatens the raison d’être of violent extremists. Accordingly, extremists are likely to look to use violence to spoil unrestricted elections. “Restricted” elections, where some opponents are excluded from participating, undermine public support to the opposition as a whole, thereby reducing the likelihood that they are able to resort to terrorism. Importantly, these effects are anticipated to be most prevalent in non-democracies, where norms of moderation in politics are yet to be fully developed. A series of negative binomial regression models provide support for these dual logics.
- electoral restrictions
- political violence
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Safety, Risk, Reliability and Quality
- Sociology and Political Science
- Safety Research
- Political Science and International Relations