Comparative Politics

Religious Cycles of Government Responsiveness: Why Governments Distribute in Ramadan



In many Muslim societies, autocrats expand their distributive policies in the religious season of Ramadan. Why do autocrats distribute in Ramadan? And, who do they target? Focusing on Egypt (2014-2020), this paper argues that the regime distributes in Ramadan to contain political threats to its survival by co-opting areas where such threats are more credible. I test this argument using an original municipality-level dataset of government-reported provision of economic benefits. The findings show that the government reports more economic distribution in places where political threats are higher: more socioeconomically developed, more contentious, and more affected by unpopular austerity measures. Using survey data, I also find that distribution in Ramadan translates into reputational gains for the regime, particularly among its critics. The conclusions suggest that autocrats might adopt multiple targeting strategies to respond to different threats to their survival, sometimes rewarding threatening groups to buy their acquiescence.


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