Roman-Gabriel Olar

Department of Government, University of Essex

Roman-Gabriel Olar
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Determinants of Repression and Accommodation in Authoritarian Regimes: Institutions and Opposition Characteristics

The most recent wave of popular uprising in authoritarian regimes, or the so called “Arab Spring”, displayed a great diversity in methods of contention, government response and outcomes. Saudi Arabia rushed to offer cash payments to curtail the protests for democratization, while Syria, despite initial offers for concessions, has shifted towards a more forceful response towards the protesters. The protests in Egypt and Tunisia managed to achieve their objective of overthrowing the dictator successfully, while the Libyan opposition had to fight a civil war in order to achieve their goal of overthrowing the long-standing dictatorship of Muammar Gadhafi. The Yemeni case displays even greater variation in the government response towards popular protests. After an initial crackdown of the Yemeni security forces that left between 200 to 2000 people dead, president Saleh signed a deal that allowed his deputy to assume power. The protests that swept the Arab World at the end of 2010, and beginning of 2011 have in common the population’s demands for political, social and economic freedom and inclusion. On the other hand, the government responses toward these social campaigns displayed great variation ranging from accommodation to lethal repression. Given this variation in government responses, the current research project aims to answer the following research question: what are the conditions under which authoritarian governments respond with repression or accommodation towards social movements? In other words, the study aims to understand how the interplay between authoritarian institutions, and the characteristics of the opposition determine authoritarian regimes responses towards social movements. Furthermore, the current study seeks to see how the institutions of an authoritarian government mitigate or exacerbate governments’ propensity in using repression or accommodation against social movements under specific conditions.