"Promoting Political Engagement After Conflict".
In this article we evaluate a strategy to promote the political engagement of former combatants and explore its effects on preferences for party moderation. The political inclusion of former insurgent parties has become a prominent component of peace negotiations in recent decades. Proponents of this approach argue that sanctioning the participation of former insurgencies provides a peaceful channel for ex-combatants to address their political grievances, mitigating their incentives to resort to conflict. Civic education programs are designed to increase former combatants' willingness to participate in the political process and increase their trust in democratic institutions, and evaluations in a handful of post-conflict contexts have yielded optimistic findings regarding the effectiveness of civic education programs (CEPs). Yet, although CEPs are designed to shift only whether attendees choose to engage with the political system, they may also shift how participants choose to engage with politics. Existing work suggests that experience with conflict often entrenches ex-combatant attitudes into hard-line positions and unwillingness to compromise, to the detriment of political resolutions. Drawing from the insights of the inclusion-moderation hypothesis, which posits that exposure to features of democracy inevitably result in the moderation of niche parties, we posit that CEPs may influence ex-combatants' willingness to compromise and support a strategy of party moderation in addition to reducing informational barriers to trust and participation. The provision of civic education to newly enfranchised ex-combatants' provides an opportunity to evaluate whether exposure to features of democracy can shift preferences for moderation, and whether this is driven by a change in strategic considerations, incentives to posture, or beliefs. We evaluate a civic education program conducted with the FARC in Colombia designed to address former combatant's mistrust in Colombian institutions and in democracy in light of their first regional elections in 2019. Consistent with evidence of CEP effects on other disengaged populations, that ex-combatants reported higher levels of trustworthiness in Colombian institutions and in democracy. Contrary to expectations, the CEP effect was not moderated by ex-combatant conflict experience. We also evaluate how the CEP influenced ex-combatants' position on party moderation; a salient debate that has been at the center of the party since the peace agreement was signed in 2016. Our evidence suggests that the CEP moderated ex-combatant's views towards engaging in ideological and strategic compromise to gain electoral success. We find no evidence that this was driven by the increase in trust, nor by a shift in ideology. Preliminary findings suggest moderation may have been driven at least in part by a reduction in incentives to showcase a hard-line posture, and by a consideration of the strategic value in moderation.