Authoritarian Repression and Electoral Opposition: Mobilization Under Germany's Antisocialist Law

Forthcoming at Comparative Politics, https://doi.org/10.5129/001041522X16346476699950

40 Pages Posted: 12 Aug 2021 Last revised: 18 Nov 2021

See all articles by Henry Thomson

Henry Thomson

Arizona State University; Arizona State University (ASU) - Center for the Study of Economic Liberty

Date Written: June 30, 2020

Abstract

Elections and repression are complements under authoritarianism, but we know little about whether repression frustrates or reinforces mobilization by opposition parties. In this paper, I argue that targeted repression of opposition leaders directly impedes electoral mobilization and indirectly deters activist and voter support. However, party organizations and ideological leadership can adapt to mitigate targeted repression's effects in the medium-run. I illustrate this logic in Germany, where from 1878--90 the social democratic party was banned and leaders were expelled from their home districts. After expulsions, local party organizations became less hierarchical and ideological leadership shifted to the national parliamentary delegation. Mobilization in electoral districts became more robust to targeted repression. I estimate difference-in-differences models that leverage variation in expulsion timing and frequency to estimate their effects on electoral outcomes. I find expulsions caused declines in social democrats' electoral support. However, their effects diminished with each additional expulsion, and after the first election post-expulsions. Opposition parties can adapt to shifting repressive environments and sustain or even increase mobilization capacity under authoritarianism.

Keywords: authoritarianism, democratization, repression, elections, democracy, social democracy, germany

JEL Classification: P16, N13, N33, N43, N93

Suggested Citation

Thomson, Henry, Authoritarian Repression and Electoral Opposition: Mobilization Under Germany's Antisocialist Law (June 30, 2020). Forthcoming at Comparative Politics, https://doi.org/10.5129/001041522X16346476699950, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3122883 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3122883

Henry Thomson (Contact Author)

Arizona State University ( email )

Tempe, AZ
United States

Arizona State University (ASU) - Center for the Study of Economic Liberty

United States

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