"The Menu of Autocratic Innovation"
This paper develops the “menu of autocratic innovation” to account for a perceived transformation in the nature of autocratic rule. Drawing from an original list of 20 techniques intended to cultivate the pretence of accountability without permitting the actual substance of it, the paper describes how autocratic innovation takes different forms (informational, legal, political, reputational and technological) and concerns different targets (citizens, civil society activists, opposition members and foreign policymakers). This theoretical framework is tested against nine autocratic regimes in Southeast Asia from 1975 to 2015. The evidence shows substantial variation in terms of the form and target of at least six distinct techniques: libel and defamation suits, anti-civil society measures, mock compliance to human rights agreements, public relations firms, think tanks and zombie monitors. The paper concludes by discussing three possible explanations for why autocratic innovation occurs: waves of autocratization, density of international linkages and leadership turnover.
"Personalist Dictatorships and Measurement Validity"
This paper questions how authoritarian regime datasets classify (and do not classify) personalist dictatorships. Despite widespread use of these cross-sectional time-series tools in comparative politics, very little attention has been paid to the quality of the judgments contained within them. This paper offers a closer examination and finds basic problems concerning well-established standards of measurement validity. A particular concern is the systemization, operationalization and scoring procedures employed, which struggle to meaningfully capture the corresponding concept of personalist dictatorship. The paper concludes by questioning the reliability of empirical inferences based on these datasets, including whether personalist dictatorships will undergo democratization, commit repression and initiate war.
"Election Turnout in Authoritarian Regimes" (with Ferran Martinez i Coma)
What explains election turnout in authoritarian regimes? Despite the significant energy, resources, and time ruling parties devote to improving the participation rates of citizens, there exists extraordinary variation both within and across authoritarian regimes. This paper hypothesizes that election turnout is explained by regime type, voter intimidation and vote buying. To test this theory, the paper uses an original dataset capturing turnout rates for 507 legislative elections in 107 countries between 1960 and 2011. The resulting empirical analysis confirms these hypothesis – with one notable exception. Instead of encouraging turnout amongst citizens, vote buying discourages it. This counterintuitive finding occurs because citizens lack optimum incentives for participation and ruling parties lack effective monitoring strategies of that behavior. The conclusion of the paper addresses its implications for existing theories of authoritarian politics and proposes several avenues for further research on election turnout under authoritarianism.
"Parliaments under Fire in Autocratic Southeast Asia" (with Ben Noble)
Why do dictators sometimes close legislatures? Despite the now accepted view that autocratic legislatures are more than mere “rubber stamps,” our knowledge of this autocratic institution is limited to a small set of parliaments whose existence is rarely in question. The demonstrated ability of dictators close down legislatures therefore calls into question a number of key theoretical assumptions guiding this research agenda. This paper addresses these weaknesses by examining moments of legislative closure in Southeast Asia. Using inductive, theory-driven analysis, the paper explores different pathways to closure in the Philippines (1973), Cambodia (1976), Myanmar (1990) and Thailand (2014), along with non-closure in six other country-cases. The findings further call into question the quest for a ‘unified model’ of autocratic legislative politics.