Subnational Authoritarianism

Subnational Authoritarianism

Democracy is spread unevenly not only between countries, but also within countries. Even in formally democratic states, regions, provinces or municipalities may have remained authoritarian after national democratization, or they may become authoritarian. This subproject investigates how subnational authoritarian regimes survive despite their embeddedness in a democratic state, and relates this phenomenon to subnational repression, to the conduct of elections, and to provision of public goods. Our investigations concentrate on Mexico and India, but also consider Latin America more broadly, and North Africa.

The Use of Repression by Subnational Authoritarian Regimes

This dissertation project by Jos Bartman deals with the ways in which subnational authoritarian regimes repress a particular set of actors that poses a threat to them: boundary-blurring actors. Boundary-blurring actors have the ability to spread compromising information about subnational authoritarian elites to broader audiences, potentially leading to these elites losing elections, being removed from power by the central government, or being prosecuted. Boundary-blurring actors can include journalists or human rights activists, but also disgruntled former regime insiders. Relying on interview material and quantitative data, the project investigates the repression faced by boundary-blurring elites, focusing on the states of Veracruz, Mexico and Gujarat, India.

Publication: Bartman, J. (2018) 'Murder in Mexico: are journalists victims of general violence or targeted political violence?' Democratization 25(7) 1093-1113.


Conceptualizing and Measuring Subnational Democracy Across Indian States

India is often credited for its success as the world’s largest democracy, but the quality of democracy is highly uneven across its states. This project develops a conceptualization of subnational democracy based on four constitutive dimensions – turnover, contestation, autonomy and clean elections. We are building a comprehensive dataset to measure each of the dimensions between 1985 and 2013. Our data show that that variation in subnational democracy persists and that new subnational undemocratic regimes emerge in spite of a national democratic track record. Threats to subnational democracy come from multiple directions, including the central government and non-state armed actors.

Publication: I. Harbers, J. Bartman and E. Van Wingerden, ‘Conceptualizing and Measuring Subnational Democracy Across Indian States’ (submitted).


The Subnational State: A Typology for Cross-National Comparison

In this project, we develop a descriptive typology of heterogeneity in the subnational state based on insights from Latin America. We conceive of states as public goods providers, and our typology consists of two dimensions: (1) the range of goods provided and (2) the territorial uniformity of provision. The dimensions delineate four types of subnational states: uniform welfare, differentiated, selectively uniform, and disjointed. Our research highlights the potential implications for regime type, redistribution, regime type, collaboration with non-state actors, and “armed political orders.”

Publication: I. Harbers and A.A. Steele, ‘The Subnational State: A Typology for Cross-National Comparison’ (submitted).


Local-Level Representation in Democratic Transition (in collaboration with Lund University, Sweden and University of Guelph, Canada)

This project examines the relationship between national and sub-national actors in the context of political transitions. Drawing on a unique dataset of Tunisian municipalities and in-depth case studies of four Tunisian municipalities conducted before and after the 2011 democratic transition, it explores pressures to alter the composition of local councils, and the conditions under which local councils resist or succumb to such pressures. We argue that local councils take on an important political role in transitions, becoming politicized even in the absence of local elections.

Publication: J. Clark, E. Dalmasso, E. Lust (2017). ‘Not the Only Game in Town: Local-Level Representation in Transitions’, Program on Governance and Local Development Working Paper 15.