Academic journal article Political Research Quarterly

The Dynamic Relationship between Protest and Repression

Academic journal article Political Research Quarterly

The Dynamic Relationship between Protest and Repression

Article excerpt

This study contributes to our understanding of the dynamic relationship between protest and repression. It employs vector autoregressions to analyze daily data from six Latin American and three African countries from the late 1970s to the early 1990s. The results suggest that there is a reciprocal relationship between protest and repression and that protest is consistent over time. Democracies were found to be most likely to accommodate the opposition and, at the same time, were least likely to display continuous repressive behavior. However, if faced with popular dissent, democracies were just as likely to respond with negative sanctions as other regime types, whereas negative sanctions were particularly unsuccessful to solicit dissident cooperation in democracies.

There is an abundance of theorizing and empirical evidence on whether state repression increases or decreases the incidence of domestic protest. However, findings have been mixed, providing support for almost every possible relationship between protest and repression (e.g., Gurr 1986; Lichbach 1987; Moore 1998; Opp and Roehl 1990; Rasler 1996; Tilly 1978; Zimmerman 1980). This study reinvestigates the repression-protest nexus using data from Africa and Latin America between the late 1970s and early 1990s. By incorporating various elements into the analysis that have largely been neglected in previous work, it attempts to shed more light on how domestic dissent and state coercion interact with each other.

Most research on the protest-repression nexus can be divided into two groups: One group uses repression as independent variable and the other employs repression as dependent variable. The former group perceives regimes as being active, focusing on the effects repression has on rebellion and domestic protest (e.g., Fransisco 1995, 1996; Hibbs 1973; Lichbach 1987; Moore 1998; Opp 1994; Opp and Roehl 1990; Rasler 1996; Tilly 1978). For example, Lichbach (1987) uses a rational actor model to analyze the dissidents' response to government repression. One of his main conclusions is that low levels of repression reduce oppositional violence and increase it after a certain threshold, whereas higher levels of government violence increase oppositional violence and decrease it after a certain threshold when anger gives away to fear. Lichbachs model also suggests that if governments repress non-violent activities, the opposition switches to violent tactics. Moore (1998) evaluates Lichbach's (1987) model using data from Peru and Sri Lanka between 1955 and 1991. He isolates specific sequences from the rest of the sample, where state repression followed either violent or non-violent protest and then looks at the action that follows state repression. Using difference of mean tests, only the analysis of Sri Lanka supports Lichbach's argument. However, the main disadvantage of Moore's approach is its disregard of the time dimension. Violent protest, non-violent protest, and repression are isolated into moves and sequences. Moves and sequences that follow each other within a week are treated in the same way as those that occur within one year. In contrast, this work places particular importance on the timing of events. Also, as discussed in the following section, 1 do not treat violent and non-violent activities as completely separate events, but rather as being on different points on one continuum.

Francisco (1995) analyzes weekly data from the GDR, Czechoslovakia, and the Palestinian Intifada during the late 1980s to identify how government repression affects popular protest. He argues that the number of protesters depends on the level of coercion exercised by the government and that protesters adapt their strategies according to the level of repression they are faced with. His results support the backlash hypothesis, which argues that although extremely severe coercion might decrease protest temporarily, it increases dissident behavior in the long-run, particularly when repression is applied indiscriminately (Mason and Krane 1989). …

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