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Political Power-sharing


Political Power-Sharing brings rival parties into unity governments and is often used as a way of resolving conflict by redistributing power. We show how political power-sharing works to include some groups but can sometimes exclude other, non-dominant groups.

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Political power-sharing provides for power to be shared in political institutions among different groups and parties.

It can include:

  • enforced executive coalitions
  • proportional legislatures
  • forms of communal veto
  • proportionality in other political and legal institutions
  • segmental autonomy (for example different educational systems for different groups)
  • international involvement

Proportions of different forms of power-sharing within political power-sharing agreements

Political power-sharing agreements can be temporary (in interim arrangements) or indefinite (in new political settlements)

Political power-sharing agreements can be temporary – enabling power to be shared in interim transitional government arrangements until elections take place; or indefinite – intended to provide for the political accommodation of groups in a new constitutional settlement.


Permanent ethno-group power-sharing


Interim transitional arrangement

Political power-sharing can be provided for at the level of the national government, or in sub-state regional or local governments, or both

The proportion of political power-sharing agreements that include provisions for power- sharing at the state, sub-state, or both levels

State power-sharing:

If an agreement has any mention of power-sharing in the nation-wide institutions of central government through inclusion of the particular groups or parties. Example: Afghanistan

Political power-sharing arrangements provide important security guarantees for state and opposition parties or rebel groups, by offering them a place in government. These guarantees are useful to ending conflict, however, they are often criticised for:



Entrenching the divisions at the heart of the conflict by translating it into new political institutions

Focusing on an elite pact, to the exclusion of any social contract

Women will often be underrepresented in the political-military hierarchies at the centre of both peace negotiations and the power-sharing institutions.

The proportion of peace agreements that contain political power-sharing agreements, and have agreements that reference women

However, power-sharing arrangements are often successful in stopping conflict but often do not provide a stable politics.

The central challenge is to ensure that the power-sharing arrangements do not operate only as an ‘elite pact’ but have capacity to evolve to a more inclusive social contract.

    Elite pact Inclusive social contract  

Elite pact:

Some agreements are between those with high rank in politics or the military with an understanding that the success of the peace process relies on their decisions alone.  

Power-sharing arrangements which aim to deliver political equality to excluded ethno-national groups are difficult to replace without negatively affecting this political equality.


When power-sharing is temporary, the democratic arrangements designed to replace it may also need to provide for the political accommodation of groups.

Where power-sharing is focused on bringing armed actors into an interim transitional arrangement, these actors need to retain some hope of having access to power post-transition if they are to be incentivised to ‘complete’ the transition.

Political power-sharing arrangements based on group identities, or integrating government and opposition political and military elites, should build in special provision for women and minorities.

Burundi, Burundian Constitution of 18 March 2005.

TITLE III: Of the System of Political Parties, Article 78: In their organisation and their functioning the political parties must respond to democratic principles. They must be opened to all Burundians, and their national character must also be reflected at the level of their leadership [direction]. They may not advocate violence, exclusion, and hatred in any of their forms, notably those based on ethnic, regional, religious or gender affiliation.


Human rights measures can form an important safeguard to power-sharing bargains by recognising individual rights.

Good Friday Agreement (GFA) or Belfast Agreement:

“69. Noting that there is not at present consensus on a Bill of rights, the parties commit to serving the people of Northern Ireland equally, and to act in accordance with the obligations on government to promote equality and respect and to prevent discrimination; to promote a culture of tolerance, mutual respect and mutual understanding at every level of society, including initiatives to facilitate and encourage shared and integrated education and housing, social inclusion, and in particular community development and the advancement of women in public life; and to promote the interests of the whole community towards the goals of reconciliation and economic renewal.”


References to political power-sharing.


See publications at: In particular Bell, C. (2018). Accessing Political Power: Women and Political Power-Sharing in Peace Processes (Gender Briefing Series). New York City: UN Women, PA-X (2018). Peace Agreements Database and Access Tool, Version 1. Political Settlements Research Programme, The University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh.