Adapting to Peacetime Politics? Rebranding and Ideological Change in Former Rebel Parties
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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How do rebel groups turned political parties adapt their ideological profiles after war? Do they continue to mobilize along the main conflict cleavage or do they adopt new issues that are conducive to peace? This article develops an analytical framework that captures the extent to which parties adapt along two dimensions: conflict cleavage issues and peacebuilding issues. It conducts a qualitative content analysis of party manifestos and related discourse of three former rebel parties with backgrounds as secessionist rebel groups: the Aceh Party, the Serb Democratic Party (Bosnia Herzegovina) and the Tamil National Alliance. It finds that while some parties adopt the language of peace settlements to legitimize themselves and actively downplay wartime divisions, others continue to seek support based on ethnic differentiation. It is argued that the programmatic message that former rebel groups mobilize around has implications for how they contribute to forging more peaceful inter-ethnic relations after war.