In Bad Company: Hard Repression in Autocracies

Originally published on this blog in German on Septmeber 12th, 2013.

Political repression in the sense of systematic violation of civil and political rights is practically a defining property of autocracies. If autocratic governments want to stay in power they have to be in a position to repress dissidents and to eliminate opposition. Under these circumstances, political repression becomes a key tool. Whether the army of Myanmar savagely crushes the 1988 democracy movement or Alexander Lukashenko imprisons the presidential candidate of the opposition, the intention is the same: via political repression, autocratic regimes seek to prevent the development of forceful political opposition movements. But to what extent do autocracies actually resort to political repression? What developments are to be observed over time? And how does political repression affect the chances of democratization? These and closely related questions are addressed by the project “Critical Junctures and the Survival of Dictatorships. Explaining the Stability of Autocratic Regimes” at the WZB. Weiterlesen

The Myth of the “Democratic Coup” in Egypt

Originally published on this blog in German on November 12th, 2013.

After the fall of the Mubarak regime in February 2011 and the ensuing 18-month “transitional period,” during which Egypt was ruled by a military junta – the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) – the Egyptian army once again intervened in the political fortunes of the country on 2 July 2013. In a television address, the minister of defence and commander-in-chief of the armed forces General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi announced the dismissal of President Mohamed Morsi, democratically elected only a year earlier, and the suspension of the controversial new constitution. In December 2012, despite the withdrawal of left wing, liberal, and Christian representatives from the Islamist-dominated constitutional convention, this constitution had been accepted by referendum with a very low voter turnout. Instead of returning power to the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, General al-Sisi appointed the president of the Supreme Constitutional Court Adly Mansour interim president, instructing him to form a “technocratic government.” The army leadership wanted this government to remain in place for an indeterminate “transitional period” until early elections could be held. The measures were justified on the grounds that the president, who had emerged from the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood, had been unwilling to engage in a “national dialogue” to end weeks of mass opposition protests against Morsi’s increasingly authoritarian style of government and the bad economic situation in the country. ((For an English translation of the television declaration by General al-Sisi of 3 July 2013 see: