Protest Mobilization, Concessions, and Policy Change in Autocracies
Why do autocratic regimes, which rely on coercion to maintain power, make concessions to protestors? I argue concessions are a process of policy change. State agents exploit different points in the concessions process to further their primary objective of retaining office. They use either a short-term demobilization strategy, wherein they aim to undermine imminently threatening protests, or a long-term adaptive strategy, wherein they incorporate information from protests into policy to enhance future stability. When a demobilization strategy is used, the regime may renege on its promises because it suffers from a credible commitment problem. The prospect of reneging directly affects the behavior of protesters depending on their level of political knowledge and leads them to appeal to the autocrat for intervention in local conflicts. I test this argument using quantitative and qualitative analysis of protest dynamics in the autocracies of the former Soviet Union and Moscow, Russia.