It's the year of the African election, with 27 countries scheduled to hold presidential, legislative, or local polls throughout 2011. And as much as elections can contribute to democratic progress, in the immediate term they can often be a flashpoint for conflict. Recent examples abound: The Ivory Coast was thrown into a four-month crisis when its outgoing president, Laurent Gbagbo, refused to accept the victory of his opponent, President Alassane Ouattara. Uganda's incumbent President Yoweri Museveni won reelection in February, but the opposition has cried foul and his inauguration was marred by violent protests. In regional giant Nigeria, post-election violence killed as many as 800 people.
In many cases, this instability derives not from the elections themselves but from the pressures and fractures that voting brings to the surface. Those cleavages and weak spots are exactly what the Failed States Index (FSI) measures. So what can this year's FSI results tell us about the readiness of these 27 countries for election year? Here is a look at a few of the biggest hot spots.