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The Legacy of Authoritarianism in a Democracy

Pramod Sur

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Abstract: Recent democratic backsliding and the rise of authoritarian regimes around the world have rekindled interest in understanding the causes and consequences of 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 imposed in the 1970s and the variation in a draconian policy implemented during this period, I document a sharp decline in the share of the then incumbent party's, the Indian National Congress, votes and the probability of its candidates winning in subsequent elections. The decline in the incumbent party's political dominance was not at the expense of a lower voter turnout rate. Instead, a sharp rise in the number of opposition candidates contesting for election in subsequent years played an important role. Finally, I examine the enduring consequences, revealing that confidence in politicians remains low in states where the draconian policy was high. Together, the evidence suggests that authoritarianism in a democracy has a persistent effect on voting behavior, political representation, and confidence in institutions.

Date: 2022-02
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-ban, nep-cdm, nep-his and nep-pol
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