The Impact of Political Alliances on Voter Prejudice in Post Conflict Countries

dc.contributor.authorOuaiss, Makram E.
dc.creatorOuaiss, Makram E.
dc.description.abstractScholars of conflict resolution have studied ways to reduce prejudice in society for years, believing that prejudice leads to or increases the likelihood of conflict. The primary focus has been on schools, universities and communities. More limited research has been conducted on the contribution of political party alliances on reducing prejudice in postconflict societies, divided along ethnic, linguistic, racial, religious or tribal lines. While alliances are often perceived as a way to overcome divisions between political forces and coalesce around common goals and interests, it is not clear if citizens living in deeply divided societies experience a change in their level of prejudice when the party they support enters into an alliance with a party that represents another group with which they may have been previously in conflict. Furthermore, it is unclear how lasting these changes in perceptions are, especially if political alliances change. The conflict resolution literature offers techniques and approaches to overcome prejudice based on the study of interpersonal, group and community conflict. Ideas on how to overcome inter-state conflicts are also explored and discussed by scholars at length. The research is guided by a framework that suggests political party alliances have an impact on party supporters in deeply rooted conflicts. The framework further suggests that until a formal alliance occurs, the views and perceptions among party supporters remain vulnerable and lacking in strength. Such an alliance enhances the effectiveness of conflict resolution interventions conducted at micro or meso levels. The research focuses on national-level politics and intra-state conflict. It looks closely at the alliance between two Lebanese political parties: the Lebanese Forces headed by Dr. Samir Geagea, a party that receives its support from the predominantly Christian Maronites (Eastern rite Catholics) and the Future Movement, a party that draws its support predominantly from the Sunni Muslim community headed by Saad Hariri, the son of assassinated former Prime Minister Rafic Hariri. For the last several decades, and in large part due to Lebanon’s 1975-1990 war, members of these communities have been on opposite sides of the Lebanese and regional conflicts. Following the assassination of Prime Minister Rafic Hariri and the pull-out of the Syrian troops from Lebanon, and after nearly three decades of military occupation, the country held parliamentary elections for the first time without a foreign military presence in June 2005. The Future Movement and the Lebanese Forces struck an alliance and formed the governing coalition with other political parties and individuals. The present research is based on a desk review, a survey of 136 individuals from both groups, in Beirut and its suburbs, and 20 in-depth interviews. The research points to several findings, namely that: a) political alliances across religious lines help lessen prejudice among voters supporting the alliance; b) voter prejudices are primarily caused by fear; c) voters who support political alliances become less prejudiced towards the other and can, in some cases, even open up to members of other groups that are outside the alliance; and d) situational and contextual factors can change party followers’ attitudes and perceptions soon after an alliance dissolves, despite improved relations during the alliance. What is clear from this research is that different approaches and techniques used to reduce prejudice are part of the way political party alliances function. These approaches and techniques include: Equal Status Contact, Superordinate Goal, Knowledge/Education, External Event/Common Fate/Common-Enemy, and Normative and Structural changes. The research findings support the framework. This has important implications for the conflict resolution field regarding the impact of macro level conflict-reducing mechanisms, such as political alliances. The research ultimately suggests that without a formal macro level agreement, gains made at the micro level remain significantly vulnerable to contextual and situational changes as well as to leadership interests. It is hoped that the insights presented in this dissertation can be of use to political scientists and conflict resolution practitioners as they advise on ways to overcome divisions and rebuild deeply divided societies.
dc.subjectPolitical alliances
dc.subjectPolitical parties
dc.titleThe Impact of Political Alliances on Voter Prejudice in Post Conflict Countries
dc.typeDissertation Analysis and Resolution Mason University of Philosophy in Conflict Analysis and Resolution


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