How do armed actors affect the outcome of elections? Recent scholarship on electoral violence shows that armed groups use violence against voters to coerce them to abstain or vote for the group’s allies. Yet this strategy is risky: coercion can alienate civilians and trigger state repression. I argue that armed actors have another option. A wide range of armed groups create governance institutions to forge ties of political authority with civilian communities, incorporating local populations into armed groups’ political projects and increasing the credibility of their messaging. The popular support, political mobilization, and social control enabled by governance offer a means to sway voters’ political behavior without resorting to election violence. I assess this argument in the context of the Peruvian civil war, in which Shining Path insurgents leveraged wealth redistribution and political propaganda to influence voting behavior. Archival evidence, time series analysis of micro-level violent event data, and a synthetic control study provide support for these claims. These results have implications for theories of electoral violence, governance by non-state actors, and political behavior in war-torn societies.
This was originally published on SAGE Publications Ltd: Journal of Peace Research: Table of Contents.