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Violence and Election Fraud: Evidence from Afghanistan


What explains local variation in electoral manipulation in countries with ongoing internal conflict? The theory of election fraud developed in this article relies on the candidates’ loyalty networks as the agents manipulating the electoral process. It predicts (i) that the relationship between violence and fraud follows an inverted U-shape and (ii) that loyalty networks of both incumbent and challenger react differently to the security situation on the ground. Disaggregated violence and election results data from the 2009 Afghanistan presidential election provide empirical results consistent with this theory. Fraud is measured both by a forensic measure, and by using results from a visual inspection of a random sample of the ballot boxes. The results align with the two predicted relationships, and are robust to other violence and fraud measures.

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Centre for the Study of Civil War, Peace Research Institute Oslo (email:; and Department of Economics, University of California, San Diego (email:, respectively. The authors thank Eli Berman, Tiffany Chou, Rex Douglass, Hanne Fjelde, Marjorie Flavin, Susan Hyde, Radha Iyengar, Patrick Kuhn, Jason Lyall, Craig McIntosh, Kyle Pizzey, Gerald Schneider, Jacob Shapiro, Jessica Trisko, Choon Wang, Hal White and their colleagues at UCSD and Princeton for helpful comments and assistance with data. They also thank Israel Malkin for excellent research assistance. This material is based upon work supported by the Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR) under Award No. FA9550-09-1-0314 and by the European Commission under a Marie Curie Fellowship. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of any of the funders. Replication data will be made available at upon publication of this article. An appendix containing additional information is available at:

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This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

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British Journal of Political Science
  • ISSN: 0007-1234
  • EISSN: 1469-2112
  • URL: /core/journals/british-journal-of-political-science
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