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Authoritarian Institutions and State Repression: The Divergent Effects of Legislatures and Opposition Parties on Personal Integrity Rights

Journal of Conflict Resolution

Published online on


Existing research has paid increasing attention to the role of political institutions such as legislatures and opposition parties in autocracies. So far, however, the relationship between nondemocratic institutions and state repression has remained largely unclear. This article argues that authoritarian institutions are related to divergent conflicting dynamics between incumbent regimes and opposition actors, which provide leaders with opposite incentives to repress. While authoritarian legislatures enhance leaders’ capacity to prevent conflict and reduce their need for repression, the presence of opposition parties helps opposition actors to overcome collective action barriers and mobilize against the incumbent regime, increasing the states’ need for repression. A panel data analysis of nondemocracies from 1976 to 2007 shows that authoritarian-elected legislatures reduce repression and the presence of opposition parties increases it. Moreover, the results indicate that autocracies with opposition parties and an elected legislature experience lower repression than autocracies with opposition parties but no elected legislature.