From bullets to ballots: guerrilla-to-party transformation in Macedonia

Type Conference Paper - Political Science Departmental Seminar Central European University, 2011
Title From bullets to ballots: guerrilla-to-party transformation in Macedonia
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2011
On 12 December 2010 the political party led by Mr Hashim Thachi won the early parliamentary
elections in Kosovo. Three days later a draft report from the Council of Europe pointed to him, among
others, as responsible for organized crime actions including organ trafficking during and after the
armed conflict in Kosovo (BBC 2010). Mr Thachi is the former political leader of the Kosovo
Liberation Army (KLA), the current leader of the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK) and he served
as prime minister of Kosovo from January 2008 to December 2010. This intriguing case opens the
questions under which conditions do guerrilla groups transform into political parties and what
implications does it have for political competition in a post-conflict country?
Notable research so far addressed mainly the questions why conflict starts ( Woodward 1995, Fearon
and Laitin 2003, Roeder 2003, Buhaug et al 2008) and how it can be resolved (Lake and Rothchild
1998, Gurr 2000, Schneckener and Wolff 2004, Sandole et al 2008). Sustaining peace and building
democracy after intrastate conflicts has also been tackled. Researchers have addressed the role of
international actors (Newman et all 2009, Chandler 2006, 2008, Kostovicova and Bojicic 2006), the
importance of the institutional design (Lijphart 1977, Horowitz 1985, 1990, 2008; McGarry and
O'Leary 1993, 2004) and building governance capacities (Ottaway 2002, Birkenhof 2007, Jarstad and
Sisk 2008, Paris and Sisk 2009). The guerrilla-to-party transformation has received less attention, with
only few authors pointing to the challenges and conditions of such transformations (Weinberg 1990,
2001; Weinberg and Pedahzur 2003, Manning 2007, 2008; Kovacs 2008, Zeeuw 2008). However none
investigates the implications that the transformation has for party competition in the post-conflict
At the end of the conflict warring parties have three options: to resume fighting, to seek external
arbitration (protectorate) or internal arbitration (democracy). Democracy is possible if the warring
parties believe they have a chance of winning the elections and citizens prefer democracy because it
provides order and protection against banditry (Watchekon 2004, Watchekon and Neeman 2002).
However the democratization process itself can create tensions in the war-to-democracy transition
(Jarstad and Sisk 2008). There is a lack of fit between power-sharing institutions in the short term, as
incentives to reach agreements, with the long term, as source of conflict in the consolidation phase
(Rothchild 2005).
Inclusion of warring parties may be necessary for peace agreements, but it also validates former
combatants as legitimate parties which may be problematic for political competition. In a post-conflict
conflict setting it is the process of “demilitarizing politics through the transformation of militias into
political parties [that] promotes both war termination and democratization” (Lyons 2002: 26). “In
counties emerging out of civil war, the major parties represent former military adversaries in conflicts
that resulted in stalemate on the battlefield, thus intensifying the importance of parties' representative
role and raising the stakes of political competition overall” (Manning 2008: 5). Democratization in
post-conflict societies needs competent political parties committed to democracy. International actors
play a role in supporting democratization as a means for peacebuilding, but it is the contextual factors
and the institutional framework in which parties operate that affect their organization and challenge the
parties' adaptation to democracy (Manning 2007). The transformation from guerrilla-to-party needs
favorable conditions. I argue that, under the right conditions, the newly transformed party is based on
the legacies of the former guerrilla and that these legacies to a large extent influence the future political
competition in the post-conflict country.
In the first part of the paper I clear concerns about democratization after an inter-ethnic conflict. In the
second part I draw attention to elections and parties in post-conflict countries, making the case for
political parties. In the third part I present the conditions for guerrilla-to-party transformations, present
existing models for analyzing such transformations and give my own model. The expectations and the
research design are set in the fourth part. The fifth part shows the conditions and tests the models in the
case of Macedonia, while the sixth part shows the implications of the transformation for party politics.
In doing that I combine process tracing with analysis of electoral and survey data. The conclusion
summarizes the findings.

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