Questions for Dictators: Question Times and Protests under Competitive Authoritarianism



Question times under competitive authoritarianism offer opposition deputies a public arena for criticism. I argue that autocrats grant opposition elites regular opportunities to evaluate government performance as a credible commitment to discourage protests. In a model of Bayesian persuasion, I show that arbitrary threats of violence intimidate opposition legislators into softening their criticism. It creates a biased public signal which dissuades citizens from protesting in situations where their protests would have succeeded, had no question times occurred. This analysis clarifies the role of opposition deputies under competitive authoritarianism. Unlike previous research suggests, opposition elites should have no interest in informing service provision, although autocrats would prefer informational over biased question times. But autocrats can capitalize on incentives for opposition elites to manipulate beliefs about regime support. Moreover, covert repression is essential for information manipulation, a common survival strategy in modern autocracies, although previous research interprets these concepts as mutual replacements.


Supplementary material

Online Appendix
Online Appendix: Questions for Dictators: Question Times and Protests under Competitive Authoritarianism


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