Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Cote d'Ivoire Week continues at TMC - was the war caused by economics, demographics, or institutions? (Answer: Yes) And what this says about the future


There is a presidential election next week in Cote d'Ivoire. The previous election, in 2010, was sandwiched between two civil wars - the first civil war was sparked in part by events around the 2000 election and delayed the 2005 election until 2010, and the second civil war was sparked by events around the 2010 election. So political scientists are looking into the origins of these conflicts, to understand why they happened, and predict whether next week's election will be followed by peace or by violence.

Hence, it's Cote d'Ivoire Week over at the Monkey Cage (and perhaps the party will continue next week).

Yesterday, Beth Elise Whitaker and Koffi P. Charles-Hector Yao-Kouamé wrote a post that focused on the role of anti-immigrant politics, which was the result of a history of immigration (resulting in a large population of immigrants and children of immigrants) and multiparty politics (which motivated politicians to politicize anti-immigrant sentiments):
The roots of the conflict go back to the 1990s, when the transition to multiparty competition unveiled deep divisions over questions of nationality and citizenship in a country with a long history of migration, both internally and from neighboring countries.
Today, Kathleen Klaus and Matthew I. Mitchell wrote a post that begins with what might be called the conventional wisdom about the role of economic performance:
Once known as the “Paris of West Africa,” the commercial capital Abidjan and the country more generally are again benefiting from high cocoa prices and investor-friendly policies. The World Bank estimates a growth rate of approximately 8.7 percent over the last two years. Many analysts and Ivorian citizens believe (or hope) that the economic boom will help defuse political hostilities between the opposition parties ...
At first glance, it appears these scholars disagree about the origins of the conflict, and this disagreement would result in opposing predictions about next week's elections and the likelihood of violence. If the problem is a combination of immigrant numbers and multiparty politics, then we're in trouble - the immigrant population is still there, and next week is a multiparty election, which could mean another outburst of electoral violence. If the problem was poor economic performance in the 1980s - 2000s, then the current economic boom implies that next week's election will be peaceful.

Of course, Monkey Cage posters are generally a pretty intelligent bunch, so the arguments are more complex than what I've indicated in the quotes above. Demographics and economics are intertwined in Cote d'Ivoire, and both are conditioned by political institutions. As a result, Whitaker and Yao-Kouamé are more hopeful, and Klaus and Mitchell more gloomy, than you might expect at first glance.


Whitaker's argument is that politicization of the immigration issue is most likely when three conditions are present:
... when the costs of immigration become concentrated for key interest groups; when embracing anti-immigration rhetoric will divide the support base of an opponent; and when the backing of anti-immigration groups is necessary to assemble a winning electoral coalition.
When Cote d'Ivoire's economy was declining, high levels of historic immigration meant that some cocoa plantations were being worked by immigrants (or children of immigrants), resulting in a fight over slices of a shrinking pie. Today, however, Whitaker and Yao-Kouamé note that "with the Ivorian economy growing at annual rates above 9 percent, indigenous farmers are not experiencing concentrated costs from immigration. Instead, they are generating record cocoa harvests and once again hiring migrant labor." In other words, economic performance plays an important role in whether or not anti-immigrant politics are salient.

Klaus and Mitchell point to the example of Kenya in 2007-2009 to note that positive economic performance does not always result in trouble-free elections. Even during economic growth, land grievances can lead to electoral violence. In Cote d'Ivoire, land grievances originate from immigrants occupying land that some native Ivorians claim should be theirs. However, land grievances only lead to electoral violence when a key condition is present:
... politicians can only use land grievances to organize violence if they have the power to distribute land to their constituents.
Under former president Gbagbo, political elites "had the power to redistribute land and enforce their constituents’ land claims, but they no longer have the money or power to do so." However, because many of the land claims that contributed to the civil wars have not been resolved, underlying contributors to violence remain in place. Klaus and Mitchell conclude that, because opposition politicians currently do not have the power to distribute land to their constituents, and Ouattara has no political incentive use land redistribution, electoral violence next week is unlikely. However, because the underlying conditions remain, an economic downturn in the future may spark political fights over land claims.




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