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Delivering the Vote: Community Politicians and the Credibility of Punishment Regimes in Electoral Autocracies

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How do authoritarian regimes punish ordinary opposition voters? I argue that elected community politicians help make "punishment regimes," which discourage opposition support, credible. Strengthened by decentralization reforms, community politicians have information and leverage necessary to identify and punish opposition supporters. When the regime wins community elections, these politicians extend the regime's reach deep into communities. When opposition parties win, their reach is constrained weak- ening their electoral control. Using mixed-methods evidence from Tanzania, I show regime-loyal community politicians use their distributive and legal-coercive powers to "deliver the vote" leading voters in these communities to fear individual reprisals for opposition support. In contrast, voters fear individual punishment in opposition-run communities significantly less. This study demonstrates the importance of local institutions and elections when understanding regime durability.


Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: April 1, 2023

This article was made available online on August 29, 2022 as a Fast Track article with title: "Delivering the Vote: Community Politicians and the Credibility of Punishment Regimes in Electoral Autocracies".

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  • Comparative Politics is an international journal that publishes scholarly articles devoted to the comparative analysis of political institutions and behavior. It was founded in 1968 to further the development of comparative political theory and the application of comparative theoretical analysis to the empirical investigation of political issues. Comparative Politics communicates new ideas and research findings to social scientists, scholars, and students, and is valued by experts in research organizations, foundations, and consulates throughout the world.
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