Corruption, Elite Contestation, and Parliaments: Why Do Legislatures Become Stronger in Authoritarian Regimes?Wiebrecht, F.Political Research Quarterly. Forthcoming.
A growing body of literature studies the personalization of power in authoritarian regimes. Yet, how institutions can become a credible constraint to dictatorial rule is less widely studied. I theorize that corruption is a key factor associated with stronger legislatures in authoritarian regimes. By engaging in corruption, authoritarian elites in ruling coalitions can build up networks of support and influence and ultimately, use their elevated position to impel more legislative powers vis-à-vis the executive. Examining panel data on the strength of legislatures in authoritarian regimes between 1946 and 2010, I show empirically that authoritarian parliaments are stronger when levels of corruption in a given regime are high. The link between corruption and legislative strength is especially strong in the Middle East and Africa, and primarily applies to party-based and military dictatorships. More competitive electoral and legislative processes, however, do not uniformly affect parliaments’ strength. These findings contribute to our understanding of institutional changes in autocracies and highlight the centrality of elite contestations in determining institutional trajectories.
State of the world 2022: defiance in the face of autocratization.Wiebrecht, F., Sato, Y., Nord, M., Lundstedt, M., Angiolillo, F., and Lindberg, S.I. (2023)Democratization. [DOI]
This article presents the state of democracy in the world in 2022 using the most recent Varieties of Democracy dataset (V13). There are four main findings. First, the level of democracy enjoyed by the average global citizen is down to 1986-levels and 72% of the world’s population live in autocracies. Second, the third wave of autocratization reaches a new height with 42 countries autocratizing. By contrast, only 14 countries are democratizing. Third, between 1992 and 2022, autocracies increased their share of the global economy and now account for 46% of world GDP when measured by purchasing power parity. Fourth, defying the global wave of autocratization, eight countries not only stopped but also reversed autocratization in the last 10 years, which we define as democratic U-turns. We find five elements that seem important across the identified cases: executive constraints, mass mobilization, alternation in power, unified opposition coalescing with civil society, and international democracy support. We analyze different combinations of these factors and discuss how they could be critical in stopping and reversing contemporary autocratization. This first analysis suggests that in-depth, comparative case studies of these eight cases and their counterfactuals would be an important area of future research.
Explaining Activity in Authoritarian Assemblies: Evidence from China. Wiebrecht, F. (2022)Journal of East Asian Studies. [DOI]
Who attempts to influence policymaking through authoritarian assemblies and why are some delegates considerably more active in doing so than others? Drawing on original data from provincial People's Political Consultative Conferences (PPCCs) in China, this study adopts a delegate-centered perspective and develops a theory of delegates’ activity in authoritarian assemblies. It argues that delegates’ activity can be explained by a combination of both cooptation theory and an understanding of delegates’ position within the authoritarian regime and hierarchy. The results highlight that core elites with more direct means of influencing policymaking will forego assemblies. Yet, peripheral elites lack other institutional channels of access to decision-makers and have to voice their demands in authoritarian legislatures. This study highlights the need for disaggregating groups of actors in authoritarian politics and offers an alternative view of cooptation particularly relevant for closed authoritarian regimes.
The dynamic role of governments in adopting policy innovations in China.Huang, B., and Wiebrecht, F. (2021).Policy & Politics. [DOI]
A growing number of studies have paid attention to the dynamic nature of vertical government interactions in authoritarian China. Yet, less attention has been paid to the question of why higher-level governments play different roles in diverse cases of innovation adoptions. Building on the extant literature, this study introduces the concept of innovation copyright, i.e., the perceived ownership of the innovation, to explain the different roles of higher-level government involvement in innovation adoption. A comparative case study of policy innovations in China highlights that if higher-level governments perceive that they own the innovation copyright, they act as proactive facilitators, and if higher-level governments perceive that the innovation copyright belongs to local governments, they are involved as political backers. The copyright structures the expectations of higher-level and local governments and as a consequence determines their roles in innovation adoptions.
Between elites and opposition: legislatures' strength in authoritarian regimes.Wiebrecht, F. (2021).Democratization. [DOI]
Virtually all authoritarian regimes have legislatures, and their role in bolstering regimes has been highlighted in recent research. Yet, the strength of authoritarian legislatures has received relatively little attention, although it can differ remarkably across regimes. This study utilizes an index of legislative strength to analyse parliaments in authoritarian regimes from 1946 to 2010. The empirical findings highlight that three factors are particularly important in predicting legislative strength, namely the level of personalism and the existence of an opposition and elections. However, beyond these factors, it appears that stronger legislatures are not generally associated with less authoritarian control over legislative and electoral processes. Yet, the findings also illustrate significant differences between de facto and de jure powers and across time periods. More competitive electoral and legislative procedures are linked to more de facto powers and stronger legislatures particularly after 1990. The findings contribute to our understanding of the institutional landscape in authoritarian regimes and provide a basis for future research on the effects of legislative strength.
The freedom of press is one aspect that leaders from the West often criticise about China. As former British colony, Hong Kong has been able to preserve its special status with constitutional rights and liberties that also include the freedom of press. However, in recent years, sentiments of increased influence from Beijing have led to fears that it would curb the freedoms enjoyed by residents of the Special Administrative Region. However, instead of clear unambiguous interferences, Beijing has opted for an indirect approach that is predominantly characterised by the salience of economic considerations in reporting news binding the media outlets closer to the position of Beijing. This article shows that the South China Morning Post has undergone an editorial shift that moves it closer to the position of the Chinese government.