By Ore Koren, The Conversation
After Kenya’s 2007 election, as incumbent President Mwai Kibaki declared victory, the opposition alleged the election had been rigged.
A wave of protests, riots and ethnic violence followed. As many as 1,500 citizens were killed and another 600,000 forcibly displaced.
As the U.S. presidential election draws near, many have expressed concern that a similar scenario may unfold here. Some envision President Donald Trump’s supporters using misinformation to mobilize vigilante militias to clash with leftist protesters. Others envision that groups on the left will refuse to accept the results and mobilize, leading to violence and deaths across the country.
Having a contested election in times of crisis, however, is by no means a guarantee of violence. The front-runners in the 2017 French presidential election, for example, were as politically polarizing as their U.S. 2020 counterparts, with centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron calling right-wing leader Marine Le Pen’s party racist and xenophobic and Le Pen charging that Macron was “the candidate of savage globalisation.”
And the first round of voting in France took place just after a shooting in the heart of Paris sent the country into a state of emergency. Yet, as the votes were counted and Macron was declared the winner, Le Pen conceded defeat, allowing for a peaceful transition.
With the barrage of 24/7 media coverage of the upcoming U.S. election, it can be hard to tell what’s real and what’s not – and that can be frightening. It’s important to step back and ask: What does the research say about the likelihood of election-related violence in November?