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“The Legacy of Authoritarianism in a Democracy” by Pramod Kumar Sur

November 17, 2021 @ 9:00 am 10:00 am JST

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Author: Pramod Kumar Sur (Asian Growth Research Institute and Osaka University)

Abstract: The recent democratic backsliding and rise of authoritarian regimes have rekindled our interest in understanding the cause and consequences of such authoritarian rule in democracies. In this paper, I study the long-run political consequences of authoritarianism in the context of India—the world’s largest democracy. Utilizing the unexpected timing of the authoritarian rule between 1975-77 and variation in a draconian policy—i.e., forced sterilization—implemented during this period, I document a sharp decline in the vote share and the winning probability of the incumbent party (INC) candidates in subsequent elections. I further document that the decline in vote share of the incumbent was not at the expense of a lower voter turnout rate in subsequent elections, and instead, voters mostly switched their voting behavior by favoring non-INC candidates. I explore the mechanism and present evidence that a sharp rise in the number of opposition candidates contesting for election in subsequent years plausibly played an important role in the decline of the INC. Finally, I examine the durable consequence revealing that confidence in politicians is currently low in states where the draconian policy was high. Together, the evidence suggests that authoritarianism in a democracy has a persistent effect on political representation, voting behavior, and confidence in institutions.

Discussants: Adam Auerbach (American) and Rikhil Bhavnani (Wisconsin).

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