WORKING papers

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Concessions and Differential Demobilization in Autocracy

 A concession is a government promise  to protesters to implement a reform in the future. In autocracies, institutions cannot enforce that commitment, so once protest ends, the autocrat can renege on his promises. Protesters should anticipate this and stay mobilized, making concessions an ineffective protest response. In reality, concessions are common in autocracies, and often lead to demobilization. To understand how concessions work, I characterize a model of differential protest demobilization. Reneging depends on the coordinated, sustained mobilization of a subgroup of optimist protesters, who place some value on the autocrat's promise, and a subgroup of pessimist protesters, who only value implemented reforms. Dual coordination produces a spillover effect: as optimists demobilize in response to the promise, declining turnout demobilizes pessimists, and the promise is not fulfilled. This effect is amplified as optimists see the autocrat as more legitimate. The model is illustrated with  Morocco's 2011 constitutional reform.

The Dynamics of Everyday Protest in High-Capacity Autocracies

What determines how high-capacity, consolidated authoritarian regimes respond to  "everyday" protest campaigns? I argue that protest campaigns in Moscow mobilized in two distinct settings, one characterized by policy change and sufficient information to form expectations over the risk of protest, and one by policies that had  been neglected by the government and information is low. These campaigns should use different tactics against the government, to either obstruct policy change or to convey  information about the grievance, and the government's response, in turn, should vary. While both types of campaigns should be promised concessions to compel immediate demobilization, when protest is anticipated, campaigns should be  less likely to receive the benefit of these promises. Members of these campaigns should be also more likely to experience  severe repression. I test the implications of this theory with dataset I collected, Protest Campaigns of Moscow, which contains observations on 65 protest campaigns held in Moscow, Russia, against the city government, from 2013-2018, and find support for my theory.

© 2019 by Sasha de Vogel