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Book description

Democracy is inherently difficult in societies divided along deep ethnic cleavages. Elections in such societies will often encourage 'centrifugal' politics which reward extremist ethnic appeals, zero-sum political behaviour and ethnic conflict, and which consequently often lead to the breakdown of democracy. Reilly examines the potential of 'electoral engineering' as a mechanism of conflict management in divided societies. He focuses on the little-known experience of a number of divided societies which have used preferential, vote-pooling electoral systems - such as Papua New Guinea, Sri Lanka, Northern Ireland and Fiji. Examination of these cases shows that electoral systems which encourage bargaining between rival political actors, which promote the development of broad-based, aggregative political parties and which present campaigning politicians with incentives to attract votes from a range of ethnic groups can, under certain conditions, encourage the development of moderate, accommodatory political competition in divided societies.


'This is a superior work, engaging, important and timely. It concerns some of the most significant issues to theorists and practitioners of democratization, of electoral systems, of voter behavior, and of ethnic-group conflict and methods to ameliorate it. It engages recent debates and provides new evidence and insight'

Donald L. Horowitz - Duke University

‘This richly insightful and well-researched work is an important contribution to the literature on electoral systems and ethnic conflict management. It is a richly insightful, original and well-researched work. It will attract considerable interest and enthusiasm from academic specialists, as well as from politicians and policymakers looking for institutional strategies for managing conflict.’

Larry Diamond - Stanford University

‘This is a fine piece of work, a thoughtful, well-researched, and well-presented discussion of how the design of electoral systems … may have a crucial impact on political behaviour at different levels …’.

Source: Democratization

‘Reilly, with his careful and thorough research, widens our view on the effect of electoral systems on democracy and democratization.’

Source: Japanese Journal of Political Science

‘… appealing and readable …’

Source: Journal of Peace Research

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