Oppositions in Competitive Authoritarian Regimes

“Grasping at Straws: Procedures and Opposition Roles in Competitive Authoritarian Parliaments”
(with Aurélien Evequoz, University of Geneva, Switzerland)
Research has emphasized the importance of nominally democratic institutions for the survival of authoritarian regimes. Autocratic leaders use institutions such as elected legislatures to co-opt opposition forces and thereby balance threats from groups within society. However, most scholars have focused on the presence of parliamentary institutions or elections in general, neglecting the micro-logic of co-optation. We argue that fully understanding the role of opposition parties in competitive authoritarian regimes and the extent to which they fulfill the expectations laid out in the co-optation theory requires detailed knowledge about how opposition MPs behave and what the consequences of their behavior are. Focusing on the parliament of Zimbabwe, we analyze how opposition parties strategically use their right to submit questions to the government party. Results show that MPs largely behave as expectations of the co-optation theory suggest.