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SISP Conference 2023

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Section 1 - Political Regimes

Managers: Andrea Cassani, Luca Tomini

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The Standing Group “Political regimes” of the Società Italiana di Scienza Politica (SISP, Italian Society of Political Science) gathers together researchers who, starting from different perspectives (e.g. comparative politics, political theory, area studies) and based on a plurality of methodologies (both quantitative and qualitative), study democratic and non-democratic regimes, global and regional trends of democratization and autocratization, and the processes of regime change, including their determinants and possible consequences.

For the 2023 edition of the SISP Conference, this section welcomes panels aimed to investigate the institutional changes that both consolidated democracies, autocracies and hybrid regimes have recently experienced (or are experiencing) in different world regions. Within this admittedly broad framework, we encourage the submission of panel proposals addressing one or more research topics from the following non-exhaustive list:

– The comparative study of democratic and non-democratic regimes, with a focus on both institutions, public policies, and socio-economic performance;
– The analysis of the various phases of the processes of regime change, such as democratization, autocratization, and other kinds of regime transition and transformation;
– The analysis of the impact of the processes of regime change and transformation on public policies and development;
– The analysis of the quality of contemporary democratic regimes in light of the challenges that they have recently faced;
– The examination of the functioning of contemporary authoritarian regimes and of their survival strategies;
– The study of the phenomenon of democratic resilience and the strategies of resistance against autocratization;
– The investigation of the sub-national and supranational dimensions of democratization and autocratization”

Panel 1.1 Defending democracy against autocratization: the role of external (f)actors

Democracy continues to decline around the world according to all the major global democracy rankings, and autocratization attempts have proliferated during the past two decades. Yet, in some countries, autocratization has faced significant resistance which, at times, has led to its reversal. Democratic resilience is indeed a burgeoning area of inquiry (Merkel and Lührmann 2021; Tomini et al. 2022). Of the many (f)actors contributing to countering autocratization, however, the role of external (f)actors has long been controversial (Escribà-Folch and Wright 2015; Rakner and van de Walle 2023).

In the literature, there has been much discussion about whether external democracy promotion and protection are effective. Some scholars found it to be not only ineffective, but even counterproductive (Peksen and Drury 2010). Others found instead that targeted support to opposition groups can protect or even improve the level of democracy in targeted countries (von Soest and Wahman 2015; Nowack and Leininger 2022) and that processes of regional democratic diffusion can effectively change regime outcomes (Brinks and Coppedge 2006; Vanderhill 2017; Goldring and Greitens 2020). At the same time, the rise of global authoritarian powers over the past decade has provided autocratizing regimes with alternative sources of support, be it in the form of material resources to develop or maintain high coercive capacity as well as co-opt opposition groups and civil society, or non-material support to increase regime legitimacy.

This panel aims to contribute to this debate with new empirical evidence and theoretical contributions on how external actors can protect democracies from the risk of autocratization onset or contrast an ongoing process of autocratization.

We welcome proposals aimed at exploring one or more topics from the non-exhaustive list below:
• global powers, regional organisations, international institutions contrasting autocratization processes abroad
• global autocratic powers directly or indirectly shaping the information, incentives, and capacity of autocratizing regimes
• how autocratizing regimes use legitimation strategies based on international activities and external ties to substantiate the legitimacy of their rule
• processes of regional diffusion of democracy and resistance to it

Chairs: Tiziana Corda

Discussants: Andrea Cassani

Breaking Down the Success of Democratic Sanctions in Africa: The Role of Regional Organizations and Sender Composition
Tiziana Corda
Africa is not only the biggest recipient of sanctions but also a primary sender of them. Since the early 2000s, African regional organizations have become particularly active on this front, adopting an ever-growing number of democratic sanctions especially against regimes born out of unconstitutional changes of government, predominantly in the form of coups d’état. Although the literature on sanctions has recently shed some light on these African responses, no systematic analysis has yet assessed what effect the identity of the senders, and specifically the involvement of local organizations, has had on sanctions-based promotion and protection of democratic norms across the region. This research article aims to uncover how the sanctioning behaviour of African regional organizations and extra-regional actors in Africa has impacted on the democratic status of the continent since the 1990s, systematically comparing Africans-rich efforts to those of non-African third-parties only, using various model specifications that account for possible selection effects and reconsider the comparative advantage of local legitimacy-based responses versus extra-regional higher-capacity initiatives. The empirical analysis shows that plurilateral democratic sanctions regimes in which regional organizations are involved have bigger chances of success than plurilateral regimes made up of higher-capacity yet illegitimate extra-regional actors only, but only as long as narrowly procedural democratic benchmarks for success criteria are concerned. This suggests cooperation with African regional organizations may be insignificant for democratic deepening aims on the continent, but remains valuable among Africa-focused democracy promoters, as plurilateral sanctions without the involvement of the former are less likely to succeed in restoring and protecting the democratic status quo ante, preventing further deterioration of regional democratic institutions.
Democracy as the U.S. Foreign Policy Tool: Defending Democracy against Autocratization during the Presidency of J. Biden
Gerda Jakstaite-Confortola
In times of intense polarization and democratic discontent in multiple world countries, the upsurge of populism, and the democratic model being under stress, the current president of the United States made the defence of the democratic model a centrepiece of his foreign policy agenda. Joe Biden, who defined democracy as “something more than a form of government, as a way of seeing the world and the rule of the people," warned that democracy was "in peril" in the United States and around the world “in the face of autocratic forces“, and urged collective action in face of “sustained and alarming challenges to democracy“. This paper aims to contribute to the debate on how external actors can protect democracies from the risk of autocratization and examines how the U.S. aims to protect democracy (both: in the U.S. and abroad) and how this global power positions democracy in its foreign policy agenda. What concept of democracy the Biden administration constructs? What role for democracy has been foreseen in the administration’s foreign policy (regarding goals, instruments, and challenges)? How does the administration perceive the idea of democratic resilience, and how does it plan to implement it? What role for democratic resilience is planned in autocratic regimes’ containment strategy? What are the main factors determining the position of the US? What risks and opportunities does this idea present for the transatlantic community? These are the questions the paper aims to address.
EU Militant Democracy: Remapping the European Parliament Agenda-Setting and Veto Power Prerogatives
Iacopo Taddia
Hungary and Poland have made it clear that a Member State (MS) can maintain its membership in the European Union (EU) while breaching the core values of the EU itself, and that the EU is not able to defend those values (Müller, 2018). The only institution actively involved in contrasting democratic erosion in the EU arena seems to be the European Parliament (EP) (Feisel, 2020). Despite its arguably modest procedural leverage in the EU governance, there is no doubt that the EP’s influence has significantly increased in the last four decades, while there is no agreement on to which extent and under which legislative procedure (Kreppel, 2002). During the same period of time, the presence of populist parties has constantly grown in the assembly, until the 2019 EU Election, when their share of votes reached unprecedented levels (Balnaves, et al., 2020). Literature on EP legislative influence argues that the assembly has significant prerogatives in the EU legislative process, either as a conditional agenda setter (Tsebelis, 1994) or as an unconditional veto player (Jacobs, et al., 2000). The aim of this paper is to move the focus from the legislative process per se to other agenda-setting and veto prerogatives that seem to have been overlooked in the existing studies on the EP legislative influence, addressing an overarching research question: How did the 2019 EU election impact the EP’s influence as an agenda setter and veto-player in the appointment of responsibility posts in terms of militant democracy? Namely, I aim to investigate whether the EP has developed a militant democracy attitude (Müller, 2012) as the seats of populist parties grew in the assembly, impacting on the EP ability to play a significant role in the EU inter-institutional bargaining. I intend to focus on Tsebelis’s seven agenda control variables (2002) and test them in the EU governance. I will evaluate whether the ability of the EP to drive the allocation of responsibility posts and influence the Rule of Law (RoL) legislative outputs has been used with higher frequency following the 2019 election in the attempt to marginalize members of the European Parliament (MEPs) from populist political parties. Considering provisions from the Rules of Procedure of the EP and from the Treaty on European Union, I will put forward the following hypotheses. H1: The more the presence of populist MEPs increased in the EP, the more the EP exerted its influence in the EU legislative process to protect the RoL. I intend to contribute to the theory of legislative activity in the EU and test it using data on legislation and political actors’ preferences for a 10-years period (2012-2022). 2012 was chosen as the base year since for the first time a MS took substantial steps against the RoL: the Hungarian parliament approved substantial changes to the Constitution, limiting the powers of the High Court and jeopardizing civil liberties. I intend to analyze all the amendments introduced by the EP between 2012 and 2022, to compare the numbers and success of amendments in different policy fields – namely two: amendments related to the RoL and EU values defense, and all other policies. I will include a further dichotomous variable to seize the degree of internal conflict within the EP by analyzing the ultimate Committee decision on a proposal and a categorical one, measuring the increase of populist parties in the EP in that period. The dependent variable for the analysis is EP amendment success. H2: The more the presence of populist MEPs increased in the EP, the more the EP exerted its agenda-setting power in the composition of Committees and in the appointment of responsibility posts. I will take into consideration the Composition of Committees and the allocation of EP Committee Chairs, Vice-Chairs, EP Vice-Presidents and Quaestors. Theories about EP militant democracy suggest that – despite the procedural provisions – the EP will tend to underrepresent EP populist political groups counting, namely ID and ECR. To test whether the EP exercises its agenda setting power to apply a cordon sanitaire to those groups I will take into consideration the last four rounds of EU election to compare the actual percentage of votes obtained by each EP political group and verify – in each electoral round – if those percentages were reflected in the composition of Committees and in the Vice-Presidents and Quaestors appointment. I will then apply the d’Hondt method to verify whether there have been relevant deviations suggesting an intervention of the EP majority as an agenda setter in appointing Chairs and Vice-Chairs. If the EP interventions as an agenda setter following each electoral round – which counted a growing share of populist MEPs – increased, it may suggest that the more the presence of populist MEPs increased in the EP, the more the EP was able to exert its agenda-setting power. H3: The more the presence of populist MEPs increased in the EP, the more the EP stretched its veto-player prerogatives in the appointment of Commissioners. Before being appointed, the Commissioners-designate chosen by the Council and the EC President, must attend hearings before relevant EP Committees, where their expertise is evaluated. Negative evaluations have led candidates to withdraw in the past. After each hearing, the Committee responsible for the evaluation meets privately to assess the Commissioner-designate. If they cannot agree, the chair may call a Committee meeting and, if necessary, a vote by secret ballot. The EP ultimately votes by roll call to elect or reject the Commission, becoming de facto a veto player. Once again, considering the appointment of Commissioners-designate in the last four EU legislatures, I intend to verify whether the EP exerted more often its veto player prerogatives in the election of Commissioners, when evaluating candidates belonging to populist parties.
Grassroots geopolitical imaginaries in the Sahel: Civil society framings in autocratizing regimes in Burkina Faso and Niger
Laura Berlingozzi, Adam Sandor
Recent shifts in the international security partnerships of several states in the Sahel region have become a significant matter of fierce public debate. In line with a relational approach to space where several forms of territoriality intersect with authoritarian imaginations, the article analyzes the link between security imaginaries, political elites, and civil society. On the one hand, the article aims to critically engage in rethinking spatiality by exploring how civil society organizations in Burkina Faso and Niger co-construct different geopolitical imaginaries about security politics in the Sahel, while on the other, the article looks at how the governments respond to these actors they identify as either supporters or critics. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork, the article demonstrates how civil society actors in both countries play a pivotal role in shaping these imaginaries, with each regime responding differently to civil society-led support or hostility. In Burkina Faso, the transitional authorities galvanize (and is galvanized by) civil society organizations that support martial discourses of pan-Africanism that advocate for region-wide, militarized counter-insurgency solutions while demonizing actors that are critical of the government’s strategy. In Niger, by contrast, while some civil society actors attempt to draw on pan-African discourses in their critiques of the government’s strategy of consolidating relationships with Western security partners, they tend to contest the martial character of their Burkinabé and Malian counterparts in order to re-position themselves as donor darling in the Sahel. Nevertheless, they still face strong levels of repression from the Bazoum regime’s clampdown on dissent. The article shows that civil society organizations mobilize internationalist discourses of what security politics in the Sahel should “look like” but remain tied to violent forms of coloniality that fail to produce the types of solidarity Sahelian civil society actors all claim to require to overcome their shared challenges.

Panel 1.2 Yet they persist: Democracy in an age of autocratization (I)

While the last part of the 20th century was characterized by the so-called "third wave of democratization", the first two decades of the 21st century are often described as a period during which autocracy and authoritarianism have re-emerged across the globe. Much of scholars' attention is currently devoted to the unfolding of this new global trend of autocratization. However, we should not overlook the fact that democracy is proving resilient in several countries, despite the crises that characterized the first two decades of the 21st century – e.g. economic recession, wars, pandemics, climate change – and the challenges deriving from the spread of fake news, populism, polarization, extremism, illiberalism.
This panel aims to bring together researchers interested in contemporary democratic regimes and the crises and challenges they face. Accordingly, we seek paper proposals dealing with one or more of the following topics: democratic resilience, democratic innovation, democratic performance, satisfaction with democracy, democratic backsliding, autocratization and resistance against it.
The panel will be organised in a "workshop format": each selected participant will present her/his paper and will discuss another paper.

Chairs: Andrea Cassani

Discussants: Luca Tomini

The welfare consequences of autocratization: a preliminary analysis
Andrea Cassani, Angelo Panaro, Andrea Vaccaro
During the 2000s, the material consequences of democratization gained the attention of many scholars, especially regarding the hypothesis that introducing electoral competition, pluralism and political and civil rights could result in better living conditions for citizens. In democratic settings, the argument goes, governments should pay attention to people’s needs and citizens can voice demands for social services and sanction rulers. Much of the interest in this research topic derived from the fact that, during the last part of twentieth century, a dramatic number of countries experienced democratization – the so-called “third wave” – including several middle-low income economies. Moreover, if these “new” democracies delivered better living conditions to their citizens, they would likely consolidate. Years of intensive research on the social consequences of democratization provided mixed results. Overall, democracies tend to outperform autocracies on a number of development indicators (with several specifications). Yet several “third wave” democracies failed to deliver, or delivered less than the citizens of these countries expected. Due to the recent global trend of autocratization, the political regime-welfare nexus needs further attention. On one hand, dissatisfaction with democracy’s (perceived) inability to improve citizens’ welfare is among the factors that created fertile ground for autocratization. On the other hand, often contemporary would-be autocrats justify executive aggrandizement by the need to act readily during crises, fulfil electoral promises, and take better care of citizens. Yet does autocratization deliver? What are the welfare consequences of autocratization, if any? In this paper, we start addressing these questions from both a theoretical and empirical viewpoint. First, we revisit the literature on the social consequences of democratization and on the welfare performance of authoritarian regimes, and we derive from the literature review a few arguments and hypotheses. Second, we conduct a preliminary econometric analysis to examine the effect of autocratization on a selection of welfare indicators.
Electoral Volatility Types and Democratic Recovery: The Ousting of Autocratizing Incumbents in the 21st Century
Nevio Moreschi
Inspired by Kim et al.'s (2022) recent study on electoral volatility and competitive authoritarian regimes’ breakdown, this study investigates the potential of electoral volatility to be associated with the halting of autocratization and the recovery of democracy in the 21st century. It has been first collected a sample of 18 countries undergoing a process of Democratic erosion from Europe, Latin America, and Asia, comprising 7, 4, and 7 cases respectively. About 40 competitive elections held in these countries between 2000 and 2023, under autocratizing incumbents, were then analyzed through Qualitative Comparative Analysis (QCA). By considering the presence of other factors ( Incumbent’s years in power, Government Type, Regime-type, and more) the aim is to identify if, and under which conditions electoral volatility is more likely to be correlated with the ousting of an illiberal incumbent. Electoral volatility has also been disaggregated into its two components, Type-A (Extra-systemic) and Type-B (Within-System), to assess whether there is a correlation between the entry of new actors into parliament and the ousting of the autocratizing actor, as compared to a shift in power among established opposition parties. The nature of the prime implicants suggests that Type-A volatility levels above the regional average are correlated with incumbent removal (but not necessarily with democratization). This relation is strengthened when Type-A volatility happens in conjunction with a loss of seats by the incumbent party. However, neither Type-A nor Type-B volatilities by themselves are necessary or sufficient conditions for a democratic recovery.
In defence of democracy: parliamentary opposition and democratic resilience in Poland
Agnieszka Kwiatkowska
As democratic backsliding deepens in Poland, democratic resilience has become one of the most relevant topics in the democratic debate. In this study, we analyse the discursive impact of democratic backsliding on the main opposition party (The Civic Platform/The Civic Coalition) and evolving parliamentary opposition strategies in this context. While recent research on opposition response to democratic backsliding focuses mainly on the scenarios of strategic actions (e.g. Cleary and Öztürk 2020; Lührmann 2021), we supplement existing scholarship with a discursive perspective as a novel approach to examining the opposition response to democratic backsliding as specific dimension of democratic resilience. In order to grasp the changes in political narratives across time, the study uses a mixed-methods design comprising temporally sensitive word embeddings (Di Carlo, Bianchi, and Palmonari 2019) and discourse analysis based on the Varieties of Democracy (Coppedge et al. 2021) classification of dimensions of democracy on the corpus of Polish parliamentary speeches in the years 2001-2020. We showcase the opposition's response to democratic backsliding as the key tool of democratic resilience. This article contributes to the research on democratic erosion by providing a detailed case study of the evolution of the framing of democracy by the parliamentary opposition during the period of democratic backsliding.
Resisters’ Role and the Different Outcomes of Autocratization An Application of Qualitative Comparative Analysis
Luca Tomini, Guido Panzano
The opposite of democratization, autocratization, is the prevalent trend of political regime developments in recent times. It is affecting different, with diverse intensities, political regimes, from consolidated to new democracies, to even authoritarian regimes, across the continents. Scholars are trying to catch up with the mounting decline of democracy worldwide, with conceptual and empirical analyses likewise, on how autocratization starts, unfolds, and can be stopped or prevented. However, we still lack comparative examinations to explain specifically the outcome of autocratization processes. In fact, if we accept that autocratization can be interpreted as any worsening of the degree of democracy, we should then ask under which conditions it can lead, or not to a proper regime change. Arguably, if autocratization is spreading globally, traditional forms of regime change, from military coups to auto-golpe, do not show similar growing trends. Moreover, many current autocratization processes are gradual, and happen ‘in stealth’. Therefore, what can explain the completion of an autocratization episode, meaning a change of regime? What, and who, can stop an autocratization process, once started? The paper adopts Qualitative Comparative Analysis (QCA), in order to comparatively study different outcomes of autocratization processes after the end of the Cold War (1991-2022). The units of analysis are the countries during the timespan of an autocratization episode, as defined by the V-Dem Episodes of Regime Transformations (ERT). Autocratization outcomes are defined as the result of an autocratization process or episode and operationalized as a fuzzy membership scoring from complete transition or regime change (1) to the return of the initial level of democracy (0), with continuous scores of democratic downturns in within. In turn, the conditions related to the outcome(s) will be related to those agency-based factors which can counteract autocratization. In fact, we shall argue, even though structural variables (e.g., economic crises, rising inequalities, polarized party systems or electorates, etc.) can explain countries’ propensities to start autocratizing, we posit that institutional, political and social actors can ultimately determine the outcomes of this process. Our conditions will then be clustered under the framework of resistance to autocratization and will be partially based on the Democratic Erosion Events Dataset (DEED, cross-checked with extensive secondary research), as divided into six macro-areas: protests and civic society actions (1), the presence of an outside influence (2), the effectiveness of checks by institutional actors such as the judiciary (3) or the legislature (4), or less institutional ones, in particular the media (5) or political elites (6). As autocratization episodes can last for different time intervals, in order to achieve comparability across cases, we will propose to calibrate these conditions with a mean of resistance events weighted with the different lengths of such episodes – a simple, though elegant way, to integrate time in QCA applications. The empirical analysis will be devoted to explaining the conditions leading to different autocratization outcomes in countries starting as democracies or semi-democracies (as the current version of the DEED exclude autocracies). Further robustness tests or cluster diagnostics, based on the latest developments in QCA-based research, will be applied to detect whether the patterns of the QCA solution formula(s) will be prevalent in specific contexts (such as world regions).

Panel 1.2 Yet they persist: Democracy in an age of autocratization (II)

While the last part of the 20th century was characterized by the so-called "third wave of democratization", the first two decades of the 21st century are often described as a period during which autocracy and authoritarianism have re-emerged across the globe. Much of scholars' attention is currently devoted to the unfolding of this new global trend of autocratization. However, we should not overlook the fact that democracy is proving resilient in several countries, despite the crises that characterized the first two decades of the 21st century – e.g. economic recession, wars, pandemics, climate change – and the challenges deriving from the spread of fake news, populism, polarization, extremism, illiberalism.
This panel aims to bring together researchers interested in contemporary democratic regimes and the crises and challenges they face. Accordingly, we seek paper proposals dealing with one or more of the following topics: democratic resilience, democratic innovation, democratic performance, satisfaction with democracy, democratic backsliding, autocratization and resistance against it.
The panel will be organised in a "workshop format": each selected participant will present her/his paper and will discuss another paper.

Chairs: Luca Tomini

Discussants: Andrea Cassani

Crossing the Democratic Boundaries? Israeli protest against the Autocratization Perils of the 2023 Institutional Reform
Alon Helled
In the absence of the written constitution, Israeli society is institutionally anchored to the twofold premise of being as equally Jewish as democratic, according to the 1948 Declaration of Independence. These two properties are the foundation stones of the country’s national habitus (Bourdieu, 1984 ; Elias,2012), the system of norms and codes interiorized by citizens. Yet, Israeli democracy has faced many challenges, both external (geopolitical conflicts) and internal (the ramifications of the Occupation of Palestinian Territories and the increasing messianism of its political religious parties). The latter have resulted in a process of seemingly unstoppable autocratization. The paper enquires this assumption by focusing on the institutional discourse and actions of Israel’s 37th government, led by Benjamin Netanyahu. The self-identified “full-full right” government, formed after the crisis of four electoral rounds in the period 2019-2021, is the fruit of alliance between the Likud, the extremist religious nationalist party and the ultraorthodox parties. While claiming to represent the majority of Israelis (64/120 seats in the Knesset), the government, sworn in on December 29, 2022, has been pushing forward the legislation of an autocratic reform that consists in the disqualification of fundamental laws and the composition of Supreme Court (the nomination of judges), the cancellation of the juridical status of the Attorney General and ministerial legal advisors etc. Given the peril to Israeli democracy, in its formal and procedural structures, the Israeli “burden bearers, namely the productive secularized middle-class, immediately initiated an increasing wave of protest reclaiming the democraticness of the state, given the unprecedented autocratization by the government. Such stands have even been reaffirmed by the Israeli President in public interventions. The enquiry traces the macro processes in Israel that exemplify forms of socio-political protest against tendencies of autocratization. The analysis contextualizes moments of democratic friction, inspired by the Bourdieusian concept of “hysteresis”. By juxtaposing the (inevitable) clash between the country’s Jewish exclusiveness and democratic republican universalism, the paper delineates the incompatibility between the two elements as the main reason of Israel’s democratic backsliding towards autocratization. Key-words: Israel, autocratization, 2023 institutional reform, wave of protest, hysteresis, habitus.
Governing through security: why democracies militarize law enforcement
Matteo Mazziotti Di Celso
The growing tendecy of many Western governments toward assigning law enforcement tasks to the armed forces is a worrying trend for democracy. Conventional civil-military theory posits that the nature of military mission is largely shaped by threats. In those areas of the world where governments struggle to cope with the extraordinary high level of internal threats, such as Latin America, armed forces often take on internal security missions. Apparently, Western democracies do not feature a similar threat environment. Why then do they use the military for law enforcement? I argue that the apparently different conditions existing between the two areas can be reconciled by adopting a conceptualization of the state that emphasizes its social component instead of its physical components. Such a conceptualization reveals that Western countries featuring high levels of militarization are also facing a high level of internal threat, albeit of a different nature. As many Latin American states, these countries are characterized by a low level of socio-political cohesion which has the effect of generating a high number of domestic threats to the security of the government. To enhance their power and boost their legitimacy, threatened political elites often react by invoking national security in the domestic context, possibly deploying the armed forces. The article exposes this theory and sketches out a research design proposal to assess its validity.
Institutions first! Sustainability as a specific stage of political development
Eugenio Pizzimenti
Contemporary liberal-democracies are facing the challenges posed by the ecological crisis. The international debate, promoted by the UN and other supranational organizations like the EU, on how to deal with this multi-dimensional emergency – which raises conflicts of an ethical, cultural, scientific, socio-economic, political and institutional kind – primarily rests on the contested paradigm of Sustainable Development (SD). While a consensus on the main pillars of SD has spread worldwide, over the past Forty years, the question on how to achieve a “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”, by seeking to reconcile economic growth with the protection of social and environmental balance, is still open. In fact, it is widely recognized that a structural deficit exits in the implementation of the policies and programs adopted to pursue SD goals. Even among established liberal-democracies such a deficiency emerges, despite variance across cases may look significant. By considering sustainability as a specific stage of the process of political development, the aim of this paper is to provide an analytical framework to assess to what extent the European democracies are actually equipped to face the ecological crisis in terms of “sustainable” political and institutional settings. It is our opinion that 1) the lamented poor administrative and policy performances are partly due to the institutional short-circuits implied by the very concept of sustainable development and its further refinements; 2) an effective pursuit of SD goals depends on a set of institutional pre-conditions, which place liberal-democracies over different paths. Despite our enterprise is still primarily conceptual, our assumptions are oriented to provide scholars with specific guidelines for comparative empirical analysis.
Election Losers: A (possible) Threat to Democracy?
Alexander Lechner
ABSTRACT Between 1972 and 1990, the third wave of democratization saw a surge in democratic-ruled states. However, a countermovement could be observed since the mid-1990s, slowly affecting countries formerly classified as established democracies (e.g., the USA, Poland, and Hungary) (Lührmann et al., 2019). Furthermore, Foa and Mounk (2016) started a discussion about whether increasing support for authoritarian ideas as an alternative to liberal democracy may pose a threat to the persistence of established democracies in Western Europe and Northern America. These signs could not be ignored and come with the necessity to look closer at the situation in other established democracies. Researchers have long considered the level of the population's political support to be an indicator of the state of democracy (Easton 1965, 1975), and recently published comparative studies support this notion (Claassen, 2020). For the past 20 years, the role of elections for political support has received increased attention. It turns out that election losers – the supporters of parties that failed to be part of the government - are often more dissatisfied with democracy than election winners – supporters of the parties that form the government. In the most extreme cases, this could lead to election losers being so dissatisfied that they stop participating in the democratic process or even try to abolish democracy (Anderson et al., 2005). The paper uses data from the German Longitudinal Election Study (GLES) post-election survey conducted between September and November 2021 with an overrepresentation of respondents from eastern Germany. Based on 2593 respondents that voted for a party represented in the German Bundestag, this paper examined whether supporters of election losers (AfD, DieLinke, CDU/CSU) are less satisfied with democracy than supporters of election winners (SPD, Bündnis90/DieGrünen, FDP) and whether this effect is conditional on the interplay between vote choice and party identification, respectively ideological proximity (e.g., Singh, 2014). The data analysis used logistic regression with a focus on average marginal effects. The empirical analysis showed that the majority of the German population (about 70 %) continues to support democracy as a form of government. However, election winners are 13% more likely to be satisfied with democracy than electoral losers. When controlling rigorously for relevant confounders like evaluations of the economic situation, respondents’ age, perceived responsivity, and differences between respondents living in Eastern and Western Germany, there is still a difference of more than 8% between electoral losers and electoral winners in the likelihood to be satisfied with democracy. Furthermore, we could present evidence that the gap between electoral winners and electoral losers is dependent on party identification and ideological proximity, with differences of more than 12 % in satisfaction with democracy in the moderator analysis. However, this effect is driven by the low level of satisfaction reported by electoral losers who defected from the party they identify with, respectively, the ideological most proximity party. These results make it necessary to reconsider other research on the connection between electoral results and political support, as the reaction of electoral losers seems to be the primary driver of differences between them and electoral winners. LITERATUR Anderson, C. J., Blais, A., Bowler, S., Donovan, T., & Listhaug, O. (2005). Losers' consent: Elections and Democratic Legitimacy. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Claassen, C. (2020). Does Public Support Help Democracy Survive? American Journal of Political Science, 64(1), 118-134. Easton, David (1965): A Systems Analysis of Political Life. New York: Wiley. Easton, David (1975): A Re-Assessment of the Concept of Political Support. British Journal of Political Science 5(4), 435– 457. Foa, R. S., & Mounk, Y. (2016). The Danger of Deconsolidation: The Democratic Disconnect. Journal of Democracy, 27(3), 5-17. Lührmann, A., Grahn, S., Morgan, R., Pillai, S. & Lindberg, S. I. (2019). State of the world 2018: democracy facing global challenges. Democratization, 26(6), 895–915. Lührmann, A., & Lindberg, S. I. (2019). A third wave of autocratization is here: what is new about it?. Democratization, 26(7), 1095-1113. Singh, S. P. (2014). Not all election winners are equal: Satisfaction with democracy and the nature of the vote. European Journal of Political Research, 53(2), 308-327.

Panel 1.3 Illiberalism and Computational Text Analysis

Contestations of the liberal scripts are a prominent feature of both domestic and international political settings. Far from being just a prerogative of authoritarian regimes, illiberal practices and ideas are now being propagated not only by populist/far-right movements but also by state structures within established democracies through an open thematization of the contestations to the liberal script within the public debate (Behrend and Whitehead 2016).

Although we know that there is a growing internationalization of illiberal ideologies through the rise of transnational networks, we still do not have enough information about what illiberal discourses are. Aligning with the legitimation literature across political regimes (Gerschewski 2018), recent studies explore the language dimension of illiberalism: to what extent does illiberal discourse vary among different actors (e.g., Maerz and Schneider 2020)? How do they justify their policy positions in repudiating certain aspects of the liberal script while embracing others? How might this diversity affect the (im-)possibility of an illiberal international?

In light of this complexity, computational text analysis (Grimmer et al. 2020) provides opportunities to systematically explore the communication strategies of illiberal actors in unprecedented fashions. As these techniques incorporate the use of novel and large datasets, such as speeches and parliamentary debates, newspaper articles and social media contents, their application to the study of illiberalism opens new scientific spaces for both methodological and theoretical innovation.

Against this background, we invite submissions that focus on quantitative text analysis and related methods with a substantive focus on the following and related topics:

? How can the use of computational techniques bring new methodological insights into the study of illiberalism and the autocratic use of political and normative discourse?
? How do illiberal actors frame their domestic opponents using language and propaganda?
? How does the discourse of illiberal actors varies or intersect in relation to the contestation of the liberal international order? What and how doe they contest?
? How do illiberal actors use social media to generate a stabilizing political discourse both at home and within the international system?
? How do i.a. instrumentalize liberal concepts to stabilize their political image both at home and within the international system?

Submissions should include original research papers that make a substantial contribution to our understanding of how the application of text-related methodologies promotes deeper perspective in investigating how illiberal actors maintain and legitimize their power both in the domestic and international arena.

Chairs: Mehmet Yavuz

Discussants: Adriana Cuppuleri

20 years of LIO contestation(s): a computational text analysis of Russia foreign policy discourse (2003-2023)
Adriana Cuppuleri
Russia is a contester of the liberal international order (LIO). However, Russia’s interpretation of the LIO and the derived strategies to cope with it have been characterized as pluralistic across the time depending on sources of foreign policy and posture toward the LIO. Can these diversified strategies of LIO contestation be detected from large bodies of text? I argue that understanding contemporary Russian contestation of LIO requires an understanding of how the architecture of the concept “world order” has changed over time according to Russian policy makers. To answer this question, I applied computational text-as-data methods to help me make sense of uses of “world order” in a original corpus (6649 documents including speeches, addresses, interviews and statements) from the President of Russia (2003-2023) and the Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs (2004-2023). Because the goal is to track the semantics of a word, word vectors appear promising as a method to study changing historical meanings of political concepts to authoritarian regimes, and consequently, how their foreign policy has changed over time. Starting from the case of Russia, this study aims to further expand this methodology to other cases in order to understand: 1) to what extent rhetoric of different illiberal actors diverge or intersect? and 2) which, if any, rhetorical patterns help constitute an illiberal discourse?
Subverting the "End of History"? Exploring the relationship between democratic illiberalism and the far-right
Larissa Boeckmann
Recent years have been characterized by multiple internal and external challenges to liberal democracy. One such challenge comes from far-right parties, who, when in government, have contributed to democratic backsliding. However, in the literature the focus has been predominantly on the illiberal regimes established by the far right, and far less on these parties’ embrace of democratic illiberalism as an ideology. This article aims to contribute to a better understanding of the extent to which far-right parties embrace such an ideology, irrespective of whether they are in power. To pursue this objective, we focus on parliamentary speeches by far-right actors in the European Parliament between 1999 and 2018. Methodologically, we employ a dictionary-based content analysis which will allow us to identify how strongly far right parties propagate democratic illiberalism and investigate changes over time. Our study makes several contributions to the existing literature. First, we propose a novel approach to operationalizing the concept of democratic illiberalism, that has only recently gained attention in the academic discourse and has yet to be empirically researched. Second, we seek to enhance the understanding of the threat that far-right parties' pose to liberal democracy by directly considering their illiberal ideology.
The Art of Fuzziness: How Pro-Social Autocracies Navigate International Normativity
Federico Salvati
Tom Ginsburg (2020) has recently supported the idea of "authoritarian international law" as an emerging competitive paradigm to the international liberal order. However, is it the case that we can outline a substantial difference in the way that autocracies practice and promote international normativity? In my paper, I explore the idea that pro-social autocracies (regimes that do not act in an idiosyncratic way like North Korea and therefore are able to participate successfully in the normative debate) do not necessarily reject the vocabulary and paradigms of international law and the liberal order. Pro-social authoritarian regimes, on the other hand, demonstrate a certain proficiency in using legal and even liberal normativity discourse. Their intent, however, is to ensure that the categorization of the semantic concepts that make up this discourse is as fuzzy as possible. This gives them more leeway in implementing their political agendas and promoting their own governance strategies. In order to investigate this idea, I use both qualitative and quantitative analyses of the discourse within the United Nations multilateral bodies (UNSC and UNGA). I will analyze top-level statements within these fora through qualitative discourse analysis and computational quantitative techniques. In doing so, I will try to highlight differences and similarities in the way normative discourse is promoted among autocracies and democracies, demonstrating that while democracies strive to be gatekeepers of normative discourse categories, autocracies mostly try to expand the epistemological borders of said categories, making enforcement and institutional coordination harder to achieve.
The Rise of Populism in Israel: a Legislator-based Approach
Eitan Tzelgov
Recent events have brought to the fore the rise of populism in Israel as an important political phenomenon. This study explores the rise of Israeli populism, building on a neural network approach to study the use of Twitter as a means of disseminating populist-style messages. We compile and analyze a unique dataset of Twitter activity by Israeli lawmakers between 2013 and 2022. We find that populism on Twitter is prevalent among parties across the political spectrum, with opposition status being a strong predictor. The analysis suggests that the Prime Minister’s legal issues may have played a role in the prevalence of populist-style messaging. Moreover, right-wing parties in Israel have been overwhelmingly overtaken by populism. The study sheds light on the changing communication style in Israeli politics, the transformation of mainstream actors’ commitment to liberal democracy to an endorsement of populism, and the increasing influence of the radical right.

Panel 1.4 Responses to conflict of democratic and non-democratic states. Actors and interactions in autocratization/democratization processes

Conflict zones worldwide (e.g., Afghanistan, Ethiopia, the Sahel) have engendered a wide range of responses from local, regional, and external actors, who affected both the internal management of the conflict and the relations of the countries in the global environment. Different normative paradigms have been used to explain the actions of these state and non-state actors in the context of armed intrastate conflicts. Authoritarian states, for example, favor military and paramilitary figures and support their leadership roles in conflict scenarios (Volpi 2013; Hill 2019). Democratic states, on the other hand, act in ways that support technocrats and democrats (Saidin 2018; Valbjørn 2019). This understanding of how states operate activating actors in the process presents a partial picture and the correlated paradigms often ignore intrastate dynamics involving domestic actors. Specifically, there is a lack of analyses of the effects on the complex relationship between the military and civilians. More generally, there is a shortage of studies that can link the conflict's progress, the indirect engagement of external actors, and the political processes within the affected states.

A panel on the patterns of indirect intervention by external actors, the differences between the types of response to conflict scenarios by democratic and non-democratic states, and their impact on the conflict's political and military outcomes make contributions to the fields of international relations, comparative politics, and civil-military relations theory. For example, contributions will shed light on the various tactics and strategies used by external actors to influence conflicts indirectly. This would be valuable for scholars and policymakers seeking to understand the dynamics of conflict and intervention, including the role of state and non-state actors in shaping the outcomes of conflicts. By offering insights into how democratic and non-democratic states differ in their response to conflict scenarios, the panel should build on theories of the role of democratic values and institutions in shaping foreign policy decisions, as well as the challenges faced by non-democratic states in responding to conflicts.

Because the proposed panel would also focus on the intra-state political dynamics of the states involved in civil conflict, with an emphasis on analyzing the impact of the conflict on autocratization/democratization processes and how they affect the civilian-military relationship, it will potentially offer valuable insights into the impact of civil conflict on political processes and institutions. This would be especially relevant for scholars and policymakers seeking to understand the relationship between conflict, political change, and stability. In addition, the panel’s contributions would show how the dynamics of civil conflict can shape the relationship between the military and civilian authorities, and the broader implications of this relationship for conflict resolution and post-conflict governance.

The case studies of intrastate wars (e.g., Libya, Mali, and Ethiopia), providing a much-needed comparative perspective on the dynamics of civil conflict and their impact on political and military institutions in the Global South. This would be valuable for identifying commonalities and differences in the political and military dynamics of different conflicts and contexts, and for understanding the implications of these dynamics for conflict resolution and post-conflict governance.

In conclusion, the panel would make a significant contribution to our understanding of the complex and interrelated factors that shape civil conflict and its impact on political processes, institutions, and the civilian-military relationship. This would be valuable for scholars and policymakers seeking to develop effective strategies for conflict resolution and post-conflict governance.

What implications do the extra-regional actors’ actions have on local, regional, and global dynamics in the coming years? How do external actors interact with local ones? And how with other external actors? What effect do they have on democratization processes? These are just some of the questions the panelists should address.

The papers and the working language of the panel is English.

Chairs: Federico Donelli, Giuseppe Ieraci

Discussants: Giuseppe Ieraci

Contextualizing the engagement strategies of democratic and less-than-democratic states in intrastate conflicts. Evidence from Lybia and Ethiopia.
Federico Donelli, Brendon J. Cannon, Giuseppe Ieraci
Different normative paradigms have been employed to explain the actions of states in conflicts in which they are only indirect participants. Authoritarian states, for example, are theorized to favor military and paramilitary figures and support their leadership roles in conflict scenarios (Hill 2019). Democratic states, on the other hand, act in ways that support technocrats and democrats (Valbjørn 2019). Nevertheless, the reality on the ground does not always reflect this logic. Multiple extra-regional states, for example, have attempted to affect outcomes in their favor in the internal conflicts in Libya and Ethiopia. Though each state has adopted diverse methods and means as suited to their unique capabilities, we hypothesize that it is possible to discern traits that distinguish the approach taken by democratic states, on the hand, from those taken by less-than-democratic states. This inductive research project aims to locate patterns of engagement and thereby answer questions as to why (culture, resources, interests, geography) and under what conditions democratic states have operated differently from less-than-democratic states in recent intrastate conflicts. The result may offer empirically grounded prescriptive utility in predicting future intrastate conflict dynamics, especially in Africa.
Disentangling the coup-rebellion nexus in authoritarian regimes
Daniel Bochsler
The empirical literature on ethnic power-sharing has shifted its focus away from regimes, and instead analyses the political inclusion of ethnic groups. In my research, I show that the role of groups and their elites should be newly conceptualised and scrutinised in the context of political regimes. The classical focus at regimes as unit of analysis is not only a pragmatic choice, following the standard design of cross-country studies in comparative politics, but also congruent with the theoretical argument: Power-sharing is about the political relations between multiple ethnic groups, at the level of the regime, and about constitutional rules or informal institutional principles. In recent studies, this is complemented e.g. by the share of groups included in power-sharing agreements (Bormann, 2019 ). The recent quantitative literature has advocated a methodological shift from regimes as units of analysis towards groups. It either studies the groups' political inclusion as a dependent variable (Wucherpfennig, 2016; Juon, 2020; Roessler & Ohl 2018), or groups serve as units of analyses to explain political, social and economic outcomes, as diverse as economic performance and clientelism (e.g. Franck & Rainer, 2012; Haass 2021), rebellions (Cederman et al., 2010; Cederman et al., 2022), grievances (Hänni, 2017) or coups (Roessler 2011 & Roessler and Ohl 2018). The reason therefore is compelling: For multiple theoretical reasons, the group level is more appropriate, as it is the sole basis that allows to analyse the “actual constellation of power at the state center” (Cederman et al, 2010, p.89). Governments might be vary that concessions to one group might affect the grievances and demands from other groups in the same country (Walter, 2006 ). Empirically, the analysis at the group level allows to capture within-regime variance, either patterns of exclusion-amid-inclusion (e.g. Juon 2023; Juon & Bochsler, forthcoming), the role of trans-ethnic kins and their political support (Cederman et al., 2022), or temporal change, such as the alternation of groups in power and the exclusion of previously represented groups (Cederman et al, 2010). This move towards groups was also made possible due to the development of important datasets at the respective levels (Cederman et al, 2010; Sambanis & Germann, 2018; Birnir et al., 2018). In this study, I propose a new four-fold taxonomy of groups in power-sharing regimes. Inter alia, it distinguishes between dominant groups and politically included groups. From a group-perspective, both are having access to political power, and hence, frequent group-based measures do not differentiate between the two. Also, my typology differentiates between groups excluded from inclusive regimes (“others in power-sharing regimes”) from those excluded from majoritarian regimes. Empirically, this study reassesses important arguments from the literature on coups and on civil conflict, but relying on my new regime typology and multiple measures thereof (e.g. continous and categorical operationalisations). Datawise, I rely on full samples of Sub-Saharan African regimes (Roessler & Ohl 2018) and global samples (Cederman et al. 2010).
Target Personalism and External Military Intervention in Civil Conflicts
Ruixing Cao
Under what conditions sponsors directly intervene in the target state's civil conflicts and send their own troops to fight alongside the rebels? While previous research on state sponsorship for the rebels tends to focus on how ties between the two can influence their interactions, this article argues that the sponsor is more willing to provide combat support when the target state is under the rule of a personalist regime. Due to lack of internal constraints, personalist leaders are more likely to pursue aggressive foreign policies. High degree of policy flexibility also makes personalist regimes unreliable partners for negotiation. Consequently, rival states are more likely to use civil conflicts as opportunities to weaken the regime to avoid future instability. Due to high level of repression under personalist regimes, the rebels are also more likely to accept combat support to increase the probability of survival and victory. Utilizing a new dataset on personalism and data on state sponsorship for the rebels, I find support for this argument.
The Biden administration, democracy promotion and the war on terror in the African continent
Simone Papale
Since the electoral campaign, President Biden has promoted a restructuration of the U.S. approach to security in Africa, framing democracy promotion, diplomacy and civilian-centred programmes as key pillars of the new strategy against terrorism. This paper examines the security policies implemented by the Biden administration during its first years, contextualising them within the last three decades of U.S. efforts in the continent. The paper shows that, while placing democracy issues at the heart of multilateral and bilateral dialogues with African leaders, Washington has continued to prioritise longstanding patterns of action, relying on remote interventionism, in the form of airstrikes and indirect support to local security actors, as the major instrument to tackle threats on the ground. Such a continuity, however, exposes the Biden administration to substantial risks. Indeed, rather than being passive actors, U.S. African partners can, and often do, take advantage of Western counter-terrorism imperatives to increase their leverage and gain room for manoeuvre in the conduct of security operations. Depending on the socio-political environment in which U.S. initiatives are carried out, local agency may play a destabilising effect, favouring the abuse of counter-terrorism assistance by security authorities engaging in predatory behaviour to consolidate power over civil society. As the paper concludes, a more context-sensitive approach would enable the United States to express the full potential of “by, with and through” operations in the continent while at the same time infusing U.S. policies with the democratic ethos of the new administration.

Panel 1.5 Political regimes and crisis responses in the COVID-19 era

Contemporary governments face increasingly complex crises that both demand and allow for unprecedented policy interventions. Such crises can lead to transformative changes in the economy, alter electoral competition and voting behaviour, and in some cases, even bring about a deterioration of democratic attributes.

The COVID-19 pandemic is one of these crises, and has provoked a significant challenge for governments worldwide. Countries have been forced to adopt various political decisions and policy interventions in order to mitigate its negative consequences. Emerging evidence indicates that autocracies were quicker than democracies to tackle the spread of virus in the first wave of the pandemic, but that democracies implemented more inclusive and effective long-term policy interventions. Recent contributions also suggest that the effect of the pandemic has been different in democracies and autocracies. Generally, the literature on the link between political regimes and COVID-19 responses is still at an early stage and findings are inconclusive.

The aim of this panel is to address the research gaps on the topic and encourage a lively debate on key questions such as but not limited to: Have democracies and dictatorships responded differently to the COVID-19 pandemic? If yes, how and why? Are there any regime features that matter more than others to account for distinct policy responses? If so, which one(s)? What are the consequences of distinct pandemic responses? Did they affect regime stability? Did they foster political and institutional changes in different political regimes?

Ultimately, in answering these questions, the panel seeks to contribute to a deeper understanding of the challenges and opportunities facing democracies and dictatorships in times of crisis —not just COVID-19. We encourage submissions from all political science subfields and beyond, and we welcome empirical papers using qualitative and/or quantitative methods as well as case studies and/or comparative approaches that answer relevant questions on the topic.

Chairs: Angelo Vito Panaro, Andrea Vaccaro

Discussants: Tamara Grechanaya

Do Pandemic Restrictions Affect Political Participation? Evidence from Italy
Andrea Vaccaro
In order to combat the devastating health effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, governments around the world adopted various response measures from lockdowns to school closures and restrictions on gatherings. While the economic and health impact of these policy responses has been there for all to see, their political effects remain understudied. Emerging empirical evidence indicates for instance that more stringent and prolonged restrictions are related to lower electoral participation and increased support for incumbents. These are somewhat alarming findings in an era of ‘democratic backsliding’. Hence, we should not overlook the political effects of COVID-19. The study at hand addresses this gap in the literature by investigating the relationship between COVID-19 related policy interventions and electoral participation in Italy. Considering the record-low voter turnout of the Italian parliamentary elections held in September 2022, my paper aims at understanding whether pandemic response measures played a key role in decreasing electoral participation. Surprisingly, preliminary results seem to indicate that more stringent policy interventions were associated with higher participation. These results are supported by both descriptive statistical analysis and a series of regression models. While being in contrast with findings on the topic from some other countries, they provide an encouraging picture on the effect of strong pandemic responses on democracy.
Political regime variations and Covid responses: the interrelationship with governance and crisis management systems
Hester Kan, Maximilian Fink
Abstract conference – Dr Hester Kan and Maximilian Fink University of Oxford, Blavatnik School of Government Political regime variations and Covid responses: the interrelationship with governance and crisis management systems The Covid pandemic challenged governments worldwide in unprecedented ways, and national responses have varied in nature, speed and effectiveness. This paper enriches the discussion on political regime variations, by broadening the focus of analysis to how political regimes are embedded and interrelated into wider systems of governance, crisis management institutions and policies. Assessing the Covid responses within 5 different countries (UK, Germany, Singapore, Australia and Italy) over the first six months of 2020, we will highlight three broad factors that played a crucial role in shaping crisis responses, accounting for differences between but also within similar political regimes. First, our research evidence indicates that states operating on the basis of interconnected governance, guided by coordination mechanisms between different institutional levels and mutual trust between actors, fared better in their initial response to the Covid-19 pandemic. This crossed boundaries between political regimes, with Singapore performing very well through dense networks between officials and interpersonal connections, and Germany successfully exploiting formal coordination mechanisms between the federal, state and local level as well as innovative modes of local empowerment. The UK on the other hand encountered obstacles in governing due to the absence of coordination mechanisms between the national and local level as well as lack of trust, and the initial UK wide consensus was eventually overruled by contestations between national and devolved governments. Italy was another example where the crisis response was hampered by poor coordination between the national and decentralised level. Secondly, regimes had a positive advantage and fared better that were based on a holistic, cross-sectoral integrated crisis management system and were well stocked with capabilities that were ready to be mobilised. This again crossed boundaries between different regimes as well as accounted for differences between Western democracies. Whereas Australia and Singapore had a head start in having overarching whole of government crisis management frameworks in place, as well as capabilities in place to face a population wide crisis, in many countries frameworks exposed limitations and were tailored to dealing with localised, temporally and sector confined crises. In the UK and to a bigger extent in Italy, there were insufficient health capabilities to tap into, such as nation-wide testing and tracing, the provision of PPE, as well as plans to ban mixing. Finally, regimes that had well established framing mechanisms, comprising channels of expertise as well as transnational connections of knowledge exchange, fared better in their initial crisis response. Singapore and Australia relied on formal mechanisms of expertise as well as informal connections and exchanges with neighbouring countries at the start, incentivising them to be on full alert, whereas in UK the framing was conducted through highly experienced but conventional expertise channels that were insufficiently adaptive to the real-world challenges of that time. The paper is based on an extensive research project, that was funded by the Welcome Trust and culminated in a report on crisis preparation in the age of long emergencies, see link:
Responding to Crises in Authoritarian Environments: Russian Think Tanks between Policy Evaluation and State Endorsement
Vera Axyonova
In the literature on policy advice and analytical communities in democratic settings, think tanks are often assumed to be carriers of new ideas that serve as an informed and independent voice in policy debates. However, how much intellectual independence do think tanks have in authoritarian environments? This paper tackles this question in a case study of Russian think tanks’ discursive responses to two protracted crises: the Covid-19 pandemic and climate change. The paper employs a combination of deductive and inductive techniques to identify the discursive strategies used by think tank experts in their publications covering the crises. The findings suggest that there are differences in how think tanks communicate crises, which can be attributed to their institutional structures and position vis-à-vis the state. In some cases, the think tanks resort to polarization and discreditation of Western governments’ crisis response, thus serving as an additional instrument of state endorsement and propaganda. In other cases, they engage in rationalization and more neutral analyses of the pandemic and climate change. However, regardless of these differences, they rarely concentrate on domestic challenges. Instead, they geopoliticize the crises, overemphasizing problematic developments elsewhere in the world, thus shifting attention in the public discourse away from domestic emergencies.
Shifting Ground: The 2023 Earthquake and Voting in Turkey
Konstantin Bogatyrev, Hande Tuğrul
Do voters punish authoritarian governments for calamities of nature? Previous studies have shown the effects of natural disasters on voting in democratic countries, where voters have the opportunity to express their preferences and hold their representatives accountable through regular and competitive elections. The empirical evidence from these studies is mixed, varying from negative to positive and null effects. The variation in the findings may depend on several factors, such as the type and severity of the disaster, the government response, the voter awareness and partisanship, and the salience and attribution of responsibility for the disaster. However, less attention has been paid to how natural disasters affect voting in authoritarian contexts, where political competition is limited and accountability mechanisms are weaker. We address this question by analyzing the 2023 Turkish elections, which took place three months after a devastating earthquake. Turkey has been referred to by scholars as a competitive authoritarian regime, being dominated by president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the ruling AKP party. Both the president and his party stood for re-election in May 2023, when the country held presidential and parliamentary elections. Using the electoral outcomes at the locality level and georeferenced data on the earthquake intensity from USGS (United States Geological Survey), we will employ a difference-in-difference approach to estimate the causal effect of the February earthquake on voting behavior. In particular, we test five literature-driven hypotheses that were pre-registered on EGAP ( before the realization of the electoral outcomes. Hypothesis 1: if the disaster is particularly severe in a particular locality, it is likely for the incumbent running for re-election to receive fewer votes from there. Hypothesis 2: the negative effect of the earthquake on the incumbent vote is associated with the specific damage that affected the locality. Hypothesis 3: the decrease in votes is comparatively minor in localities where the incumbent showed relief effort and provided aid. Hypothesis 4: a more negative reaction to the quake in opposition-dominated localities, meaning the vote decrease for the incumbent will be more significant or greater in magnitude. Hypothesis 5: being exposed to higher earthquake intensity leads to higher turnout. The outcome variables in our analysis are the electoral results (vote shares and turnout). The election data come from the data portal of Turkey’s Supreme Electoral Council (YSK), which is authorized to announce the official election results. The election data contains the number of voters and votes for each party or candidate in the presidential and parliamentary elections. We use the 2023 election results as well as the preceding elections for the difference-in-difference analysis. The treatment variable is the earthquake intensity, measure on the Modified Mercalli Scale between 0 (no shaking) and 10 (maximum intensity). The data on the earthquake intensity across the Turkish territory are provided by the United States Geological Survey (USGS) in the form of shakemaps, i.e. geospatial data attributing a maximum intensity score to every raster on the map (Figure 1). As February 6 witnessed two major earthquakes coming one after another in a sequence, we use the shakemaps for both events. The social impact of the two earthquakes is inseparable, as they happened on the same day and are commonly referred as "the earthquake". Therefore, to construct our treatment variable, we take the maximum intensity score between the two earthquakes for every raster on the shakemap. In about 80% of cases, this represents the first earthquake, which had a higher magnitude, but this measure also accounts for the extra impact in about 20% cases that were more exposed to the 2nd earthquake. To test the robustness of our results, we replicate the analysis using only the first earthquake intensity. To match the earthquake data with the voting data, we attribute geographic coordinates to the electoral results. For this purpose, we use the coordinates of approx. 49000 Turkish localities - neighborhoods or villages. Then, we aggregate polling station data into localities by summing the number of votes and voters from polling stations assigned to a specific locality. To construct our outcome variables, we compute the turnout relative to the eligible votes and the vote share for each party or candidate. To ensure the accuracy of our analysis, we will include several control variables in our model. These will include locality level controls as longitude and latitude, type of locality (urban/rural), demographic indicators and economic status. We also control for average ethnocultural identity, and lifestyle from survey data at the municipality level. At the moment of SISP abstract submission (May 2023), we are starting the analysis with the electoral data that have just been made publicly available. Our results will shed new light on voting behavior, political accountability and crisis response in non-democratic settings.

Panel 1.6 Rethinking Regimes and Regime Change

Most of the studies on political regimes focus on the institutional level and on the mechanisms, formal or informal, that guarantee the access to, management of, and limitations in the exercise of political power. In so doing, they tend to classify regimes in accordance with a set of static conditions that can be either present or not and understand regime change as a qualitative move from autocracy to democracy or vice-versa. Although useful in providing a synthetic and clear-cut classification of regimes and regime change, this approach risks overlooking the often non-state-bound, non-institutional, and non-linear ways in which real-existing regimes work and, most crucially, the ways in which they transform fundamentally while staying within the same broad regime type.
By inviting scholars of democratic and authoritarian regimes, this panel aims at rethinking regimes and their dynamic of change. To do so, it invites contributors to (a) move away from the 'usual suspects' such as state actors, governments, institutions, elections, and the like, and focus more on non-state actors, practices, imaginaries, protests from below, and the like; (b) reflect upon all those factors and mechanisms that are not strong enough to cause regime change in a full sense but that might significantly affect how a regime works and consequently the lives of relevant parts of the population, such as workers, women, minorities, communities, foreigners, and the like; (c) rethink the interaction between the domestic and the international in ways that help us overcome the long-lasting analytical bifurcation between the two and contribute to better understanding how democracy and autocracy work and change in a global age; and finally (d) break a linear and merely incremental understanding of change, pointing to the role of junctures, contingencies, contradictions and trade-offs, and the ways they contribute in shaping and reshaping regimes.
The panel welcomes different methodological approaches and different epistemological sensitivities, such as qualitative and quantitative methods and interdisciplinary perspectives, without any limitations in terms of sub-discipline, actors, institutions, countries, and regions.

Chairs: Licia Cianetti, Gianni Del Panta

Discussants: Gianni Del Panta

A Proposal for the Modeling of the Bloc Politics after the Regime Change in Turkey
Halime Safiye Atalay
In this paper, it is proposed an alternative modeling for the analysis of bloc politics inspired by the uniqueness of Turkish case: More than electoral cooperation and less than governmental coalition. The research motivation and question is to describe the operation of current Turkish politics by political parties. Though the recent regime (government system) change in Turkey is the case, the focus is the theoretical elaborateness in this presentation. The model simply is an application of team games into the recent bloc politics in Turkey; like a football match. Configuration, strategies and distribution of power between the partners of each team have importance as much as the external components and rules of the match and the comparative advantage between the teams (blocs). Common identities prove equal gravity with the search of new identity formations. The last presidential and parliamentary elections of 2023 proved the consistency and success of the proposed model. Not forgetting, the model here bears on the qualitative method for data gathering and analysis, while the bloc politics worths to be studied due to its demonstration on collaboration skills between political actors in a system. The reason behind the submission of this paper presentation to this panel is its conceptual focus rather than a tendency of a popular case implementation. Lastly, the references in the literature attaches the following studies: Mair (2001), Bale (2003), Grunberg & Schweisguth (2003), Pedersen & Thomsen (2005, 2011), Mudde (2014), Forestiere (2009) and Bilgin (2019).
Rethinking regime change in Tunisia from democratic aspirations to authoritarian setbacks
Ester Sigillò
This article offers a new perspective on the analysis of regime change in Tunisia, challenging the dominant focus of most studies on institutional mechanisms and static conditions that define regime types. It argues that such an approach often overlooks the non-state, non-institutional, and non-linear dynamics that characterize existing regimes. In the context of Tunisia, this article aims to provide an analysis of regime change by questioning two prevailing narratives. First, it questions the myth of Tunisia as a democratic exception and the assumption of democratic transition in the period 2011-2021. Second, it questions the narrative of an unpredictable authoritarian drift since President Kais Saied's "coup" in July 2021. Delving into the complexities of regime change in Tunisia, the article seeks to shed light on the multifaceted dynamics that have characterized its political trajectory. Overall, the article argues for a more comprehensive understanding of regime change that goes beyond institutional factors and considers the non-state dynamics that play a significant role in shaping the actual regimes in place. By broadening the analytical scope, we can uncover the subtle and often overlooked dynamics that shape the transition from democracy to autocracy.
Rethinking Regimes: Five Models to Make Sense of the Complexity of Political Regimes, Their Transformation and Change
Licia Cianetti
It is widely agreed that we are living through an era of democratic decline. This has spurred a veritable industry of comparative politics studies aimed at mapping and explaining such decline (Coppedge et al. 2022), typically focusing on executive-led erosion or outright dismantlement of democratic institutions, which is seen as the key de-democratisation process in the XXI century (Bermeo 2016). A flurry of single-country studies, regional, and global comparisons are providing important insights on factors, actors, and processes driving executive-led democratic decline. At the same time, critiques are emerging of some of the underlying assumptions of this research agenda. In particular, critics have pointed to the limits of state-bound accounts of democratic decline that treat democracies as homogenous and self-contained units of analysis (Tomini 2021), and to the pitfalls of treating undemocratic change as a linear process and one that is primarily driven by electoral cycles (Cianetti and Hanley 2021). These critiques have a longer lineage in decades-old arguments that comparative politics in general – and the study of political regimes in particular – has a problem with space (Tilly 1984) and time (Pierson 2003; 2004). Political regimes and their processes of transformation and change are complex and political scientists by necessity rely on simplified models to make sense of such complexity and to reveal otherwise hidden patterns, relationships, trends, or mechanisms. This paper evaluates advantages and disadvantages of two common approaches political scientists use to make sense of the complexity of regimes, regime transformation, and regime change – namely components and dimensions – and proposes three additional promising analytical models borrowed from other disciplines: the “syndemics” model from public health (The Lancet 2017), nested analytical models from ecosystem studies (Wimberley 2009) and “assemblage” models from urban geography (Sassen 2019). The three borrowed models are presented not as superior substitutes but as valid complements that can reveal aspects and foreground questions that remain hidden to the two “classical” approaches to regime studies. In particular, they can help us expand our toolbox to deal with existing disciplinary blind spots related to time and space. Syndemics can help us better conceive of regime transformations and change as temporally complex combinations of simultaneous processes unfolding at different speeds, along different timelines, and involving different actors and logics. Nested and assemblage models can, in different ways, help us better conceive of local processes of democratic erosion as embedded in “big structures” and “large processes” (Tilly 1984) that take place at different scales (sub-national, national, transnational) and that exceed and complicate the boundaries of the country-case. Each of the five approaches – the two classical and the three borrowed ones – has its own advantages and disadvantages, with particular trade-offs between parsimony and coverage. A better understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of each approach will help advance the debate on regime change and transformation. - Bermeo, Nancy. 2016. “On Democratic Backsliding.” Journal of Democracy 27 (1): 5–19. - Cianetti, Licia, and Seán Hanley. 2021. “The End of the Backsliding Paradigm.” Journal of Democracy 32 (1): 66–80. - Coppedge, Michael, Amanda B. Edgell, Carl Henrik Knutsen S, and Staffan I. Lindberg, eds. 2022. Why Democracies Develop and Decline. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. - Pierson, Paul. 2003. “Big, Slow-Moving, and...Invisible.” In Comparative Historical Analysis in the Social Sciences, edited by James Mahoney and Dietrich Rueschemeyer, 177–207. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. - Pierson, Paul. 2004. Politics in Time: History, Institutions, and Social Analysis. Princeton: Princeton University Press. - Sassen, Saskia. 2019. Cities in a World Economy. 5th Edition. London: Sage. - The Lancet. 2017. “Syndemics: Health in Context.” The Lancet 389 (10072). - Tilly, Charles. 1984. Big Structures, Large Processes, Hugh Comparisons. London: Sage. - Tomini, Luca. 2021. “Don’t Think of a Wave! A Research Note about the Current Autocratization Debate.” Democratization 28 (6): 1191–1201. - Wimberley, Edward T. 2009. Nested Ecology: The Place of Humans in the Ecological Hierarchy. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press.
The impact of party bans on the predicament of ethnic groups: an application to Sub-Saharan Africa
Guido Panzano, Zdravko Veljanov, Mehmet Yavuz
The introduction of multiparty elections in new democracies has been often accompanied with the politicization of ethnic cleavages. Consequently, ethnic parties have been assumed as naturally bad for democracy, polarizing party systems and promoting communal conflicts. Therefore, many constitutions of young democracies contain bans for ethnic, religious, territorial, or exclusive parties. Scholars have already nuanced the consequences of ethnic parties, and the abuses of ethnic party bans. However, we lack assessments on the effects of such bans on citizens and voters, such as those belonging to ethnic minorities. In short, does an ethnic party ban negatively influence voter perceptions of discrimination, namely the feeling of being treated more unfairly by the government? The study hypothesizes that ethnic party bans might have negative consequences for democratic quality by increasing the perceived exclusiveness of the regime and the predicament of ethnic groups, in particular for those (usually, minorities) affected by the ban. We test this claim on Afrobarometer data, and controls on characteristics at individual, ethnic group and country level. Although applied to Sub-Saharan Africa, the research has broad implications for democratization and conflict research.

Panel 1.7 Media capture and resistance against autocratization

According to Guriev and Treismann, "informational autocrats" in hybrid regimes strive to project an image of competence and trustworthiness on the population "that looks much more like that of democratic leaders than the discourse of threats and fear embraced by old-style dictators" (2019, 101). Controlling the media landscape is then crucial for hegemonizing the narrative and ensuring that key elites and a large enough portion of the population retain trust in the power holders. Indeed, transparency can prove detrimental to autocrats' survival, as it can elicit mass protests and lead to regime change (Kendall-Taylor & Frantz 2014; Hollyer, Rosendorff & Vreeland, 2018). In brief, media capture is then a central element of autocrats'

Yet, we know that independent media in competitive authoritarian regimes can still operate despite hostile conditions (Levitsky & Way 2010). Moreover, the burgeoning research agenda on autocratization resistance (Tomini et al. 2022) and democratic resilience (Merkel & Lührmann 2021) has highlighted the crucial role these media can play in halting and reversing autocratization.Only recently, though, have scholars begun to consider independent media as agents of resistance in their own right (Mesquita & de-Lima-Santos 2023; Pashkalis et al. 2022; Pleines & Somfalvy 2022), noting that "In spite of the limitations on journalistic coverage in authoritarian societies, journalists reacted in various ways to all sorts of authoritarian practices" (Dragomir 2019).

Cross-cutting the dialogue between scholars in comparative politics and media studies, this panel aims to stimulate interdisciplinary collaboration on the multifaceted phenomena of media capture and resistance in countries that have undergone autocratization.

We welcome paper on the following topics:

• (measuring) the impact of independent journalism in autocratizing countries;
• the undergoing reconceptualization of the normative role of journalism under media capture, looking particularly at non-Western contexts;
• the role of international (f)actors and the implications of "transnational journalism" for autocratic survival and resistance against autocratization;
• the resilience strategies of newsrooms, ranging from initiating cross-border cooperation to experimenting with innovative business models;
• the rising challenge of "digital authoritarianism" and the opportunities offered by digitization to hold rulers accountable.

Both theoretical and empirical studies with quantitative or qualitative approaches are welcome.

Chairs: Simone Benazzo, Luca Tomini

Discussants: Simone Benazzo

A place to rally around the flag or hub of subversive information. Telegram during Russo - Ukrainian war.
Tamara Grechanaya
Can social media challenge the information hegemony of autocratic regimes? Under specific scenarios, social networks might serve as a communication platform that autocrats use to manipulate public opinion, but under other new media enhances opposition movements and facilitate the dissemination of regime-critical content. In the context of the Russo-Ukrainian war, the common understanding presumes that digital media in Russia became an ultimate source of alternative news coverage and uncensored information. Yet little systematic empirical evidence exists to support this claim, and as the paper shows, such assumption might be misleading. I contribute to the online disinformation literature examining Russian propaganda during the Russo-Ukrainian war on Telegram - the platform becoming particularly relevant for political communication in Post-Soviet states. I educe from the literature two alternative strategies which Kremlin loyal actors could employ to co-opt digital space: distraction and pro-regime agenda boosting. The first assumes strategic placement of entertaining or other innocuous information to distract social media users from negative news content. The second reminds logic of traditional propaganda and consists in flooding the online space with pro-regime information. I identify prominent Russian-speaking Telegram channels in the categories of news and entertainment (6000 channels overall) and then collect all messages published by them as well as data about its subscribers' level by day for three months before and after the beginning of the conflict. To test for the presence of the distractive strategy, I compare the volume of entertainment and news content in collected channels and check how it changed with the war's start, using nonparametric hypothesis testing and interrupted times series (ITS) methods. To control for agenda-boosting strategy, I use automated text analysis to classify news channels into anti and pro-regime categories and then examine each group's dynamic of content posting in a similar manner (nonparametric test and ITS). This provides preliminary insights into whether and to which extent autocratic actors could manipulate information in the digital space. After that, I investigate the demand side of Russian-speaking Telegram, that is, which content receives more attention from the platform audience and if invasion altered existing preferences. The obtained results indicate that war turned Telegram into a news hub - the volume of news content and its audience skyrocketed in the post-invasion period, compared to a slight change in the volume and audience of entertainment channels. However, pro-regime news coverage strongly dominated the platform and had a significantly greater subscriber base. Thus, the share of anti-regime accounts was eight times smaller than pro-government channels, even though the dissent audience tended to engage more with the published content.
Asymmetric media ownership structures and the spread of foreign propaganda in European media ecosystems
Chonlawit Sirikupt
Following Russia’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine, some commercial and state-owned Italian and Hungarian news programs started to air its war propaganda. While these instances belie the media’s ideals as democracy’s watchdog, they are not universal across European democracies. For many Central and Eastern European countries like Germany and Lithuania, the broadcasting of the Kremlin’s propaganda was limited on national media. Why are media ecosystems in some European democracies less effective than others in filtering out foreign propaganda? While media capture explains how the integration of political and business elites diminishes editorial independence, it overlooks why asymmetric media ownership structures help propagate foreign propaganda. I argue that the concentration of media ownership in the hands of industrialists or “tycoons” erodes established editorial standards and filters in favor of broadcasting information that align with the dominant corporate elites’ commercial and political agenda. This results in the incorporation of misinformation about sensationalist topics into news programs. Focusing on Italy and Germany in the context of the Russo-Ukraine war, I employ theory-building process tracing to track our variables of interests. Both offer similar methodological advantages: while they are institutionalized European democracies, Italy’s media ecosystem proved less adept than Germany’s in filtering out Russian propaganda from its news programs. This divergence bears traces to differences in media ownership concentration. In Italy, the audiovisual market is a duopoly of the often-politicized public service broadcaster RAI, and the Mediaset company owned by Silvio Berlusconi, who has personal ties to Vladimir Putin. These conflicts of interests expose newsrooms to their owners’ pressures. In Germany, all broadcasting corporations - public and private - are regulated by independent supervisory bodies drawn from “socially relevant” interest groups, which limit owner influence on editorial practices. These initial findings hint at important academic and policy implications for shaping regulatory approaches to safeguard media pluralism in democracies confronted with foreign propaganda.
Mosireen : video against autocracy
Thomas Richard
This paper focuses on the part played by Mosireen, a video collective that has been crucial in documenting the 2011 revolution in Egypt and its aftermath. Through projects such as Tahrir cinema and the development of an online huge archive that documents repression during and after the revolution, the collective has played a crucial part in the documentation of the revolution, while at the same trying to document various forms of mobilization against the autocratic rule in Egypt. In this regard, Mosireen can be interpreted as a key player in the development of an online activist sphere in the Middle East, while at the same time questioning the part played by this very sphere over the course of the revolution (Robé 2021, Atef 2020). The collective has played a crucial part in the documentation of the revolution, shooting some of the most important images of it, and taking part in the “battle for images” against the regime, images that have been widely used by foreign media, and fostered support for the revolution (Benetti 2013). At the same time, the group was careful not to overestimate the part played by digital mobilizations, and to question the status of these weaponized images, in the political sense (Bergudo 2021). It was therefore at the same time audacious and careful in its handling of images, questioning the issues of authorship and ventriloquism when it comes to documenting a popular uprising, grounding its work in previous works about images and revolution (Barot 2009), and focusing on the ethics of such a work (Moger 2015). Through their work, the revolution was framed as linked to a variety of local mobilizations that aimed at contesting the regime’s narrative, while the delegitimization of the regime was achieved through an important corpus of videos that allowed its victims to document its violence. This work aims to question on the one hand the part played by non-state actors, in this case a non-profit collective that tries to reinvent media coverage of the revolution in regime change, and on the other hand, the understading made by the collective of media of the role played by the media in resisting first against the Mubarak regime, then, through their continuous activism, against the reimposition of autocracy under al-Sissi. We aim to answer this double research question through an analysis of the videos in their political and media context, and by questioning the way the group has tried to develop a new aesthetics of images that redefines media activism against oppressive regimes.
Resisting autocratization from abroad. The case of media in exile
Simone Benazzo
Most of the literature on media in autocratizing or hybrid regimes portrays journalists as passive victims of rulers' efforts to undermine pluralism and gag critical voices. Only recently have researchers begun to shed light on the practices implemented by journalists to resist state pressure and stick to their mission of holding power to account in regimes hostile to media freedom (Dragomir 2019; Pleines & Somfalvy 2022). However, one crucial category has so far gone almost unnoticed: media in exile. Although their heavy reliance on ICTs also entails risks of information control in terms of censorship and digital surveillance (Michaelsen 2018; Porlezza & Arafat 2021), it has been shown that media located outside the country are more difficult to control than those based in territories that fall physically or virtually within the censor's jurisdiction (Pan 2017). Media in exile participate in transnational investigations, launch crowdfunding campaigns, ally with like-minded partners, and experiment with the potential of AI tools to circumvent censorship and increase their outreach. The increasing digitalization of the media sphere allows media in exile to conduct and publish high-quality reporting from abroad on the abuses and misconduct of domestic elites. They have thus been at the forefront of efforts to document violations committed by national state authorities, from the crackdown on the Uighur minority in China to coverage of the mass protests that erupted in Iran after the murder of Mahsa Amini. Despite the challenges inherent in the exile experience and the current crisis in traditional media business models, media in exile often end up representing the only reliable source of information on events that illiberal elites would prefer to keep hidden from public scrutiny. There are several instances of media outlets relocated or founded in exile that have built a reputation as trustworthy voices for readers both at home and abroad. The preliminary research conducted for this article identified 80 media in exile from 35 different countries. As this issue has not yet been addressed systematically by scholars interested in better understanding the actions of independent newsrooms operating in contexts of media capture, the paper aims to build theory by investigating the characteristics, values, and practices of these actors through a survey that collected 25 responses among media in exile from five different world regions. The survey addressed, in particular, these media outlets' relationship with state authorities, both in their home and host countries; their interaction with activist circles; and their conceptualization of the role they play in autocratizing polities, against the backdrop of the traditional normative configuration of Western journalism. The survey presents original quantitative data that could help stimulate future research on this topic. Despite its growing centrality due to the current global deterioration of media freedom levels around the world, the phenomenon of media in exile has never been the subject of academic research. The paper thus fills this gap, and contributes to the research agendas of autocratization studies, diaspora politics, and transnational journalism.