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Second time around: Ex-combatants at the polls in Liberia*

  • Johanna Söderström (a1)

A precondition for sustainable peace and democracy is the acceptance of new ways of solving political problems without resorting to arms. Post-war elections are an important point for testing the legitimacy of the new regime, highlighting the depth of micro-level support for democracy. In the case of Liberia, the most notable problem of the elections of 2005 related to the issue of legitimacy. The ex-combatants did not trust the results and felt abandoned after the elections. Such experiences stand in the way of further deepening democracy in Liberia and may offer the grounds for mobilising anew. Yet, it is only by repeated experiences with elections that a process of democratisation takes place. This article addresses how the second experience with elections has changed ex-combatants' relation with democracy and experience of legitimacy, through re-interviewing a number of ex-combatants concerning their electoral experience from 2005 and 2011.

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I am very grateful for the feedback I have received from Enzo Nussio, Ben Oppenheim, Mats Utas and the Democracy and Development seminar at the University of Bergen, during the development of this manuscript. The fieldwork for this article was funded by Göransson-Sandvikens resestipendium and a grant from the Borbos Erik Hansson fund.

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