GLD Working Papers

Electoral Responsiveness in Closed Autocracies: Evidence from Petitions in the former German Democratic Republic

Hans Lueders


Contested elections are usually seen as preconditions for constituent responsiveness. This paper shows that even uncontested elections can create incentives for dictators to respond to and address citizen demands. I argue that autocratic governments engage in cycles of responsiveness to assure citizens of their competence before uncontested elections and ensure that high popular support mitigates the short-term destabilizing effects that elections can have. Using a unique dataset of petitions to the government of the former German Democratic Republic, I show that response times to petitions were up to 31 percent shorter before elections, and that success rates were up to 63.6 percent higher. While extant research on responsiveness in autocracies usually highlights the incentives of local officials, my results are driven by the central government. The paper furthers our understanding of electoral mobilization in closed regimes and contributes to an emerging research agenda on responsiveness and accountability in autocracies.

Equity with Prejudice: International NGOs and Healthcare Delivery in Refugee Crises

Melani Cammett and Aytuğ Şaşmaz


Refugees often face prejudice in host countries. Does local resentment of refugees result in discrimination in access to social services? We explore the quality of care received by Syrian refugees and Lebanese nationals in Lebanese health facilities using data from original surveys in a nationally representative sample of primary health centers. The conventional wisdom in research on intergroup relations suggests Syrians would receive inferior services, while research on prosocial behavior would predict little variation, whether due to intrinsic or extrinsic motivations. Our results indicate no difference in the quality of care for Syrians and Lebanese. Instead, they suggest incentives from international organizations at both the organizational and individual levels, as well as perceived public health imperatives, may explain equitable treatment, despite evidence for prejudice against Syrians. The findings advance research on the politics of refugee crises and humanitarian response, illuminating the experience of everyday life for refugees.

Bread and Salt: Labour, Reputation, and Trust between Syrian Refugees and Lebanese Hashish Farmers in the Northern Biqa’a

Jacob Cassani


This paper addresses the intersection between forced migration, labour markets, and governance. Drawing on extensive fieldwork amongst Syrian refugees in the Northern Biqa’a Valley, Lebanon, the paper argues that understanding ‘refugees as labourers’ is central in explaining practices of both Lebanese villagers and Syrian refugee camps. This article builds on the findings of recent labour ethnographies in the Levant (Chalcraft, 2009; Proudfoot, 2017; Sajadian, 2020; Saleh, 2016; Turner, 2016) to demonstrate the centrality of labour-capital relations to understanding the governance of newly settled communities. Labour is a fundamentally important feature in the life of a camp, interacting with and underpinning other patterns of interactions based on, for example, state apparatus, infrastructure, and inter-tribal conflict. The article presents and analyses four ethnographic vignettes of typical economic partnerships between Lebanese landowners and Syrian refugee-labourers in rural Lebanon. Each relationship entails a pattern of mirrored capacities and weaknesses, structurally replicated throughout rural Lebanon, creating an environment of labour insecurity and heightening the value of long-term, trusting relationships.

Local Political Priorities during Tunisia’s First Democratic Municipal Elections

Alexandra Domike Blackman, Julia Clark, and Aytuğ Şaşmaz


In May 2018, Tunisia held the country’s first democratic local elections to elect representatives to the country’s 350 municipal councils. Democratic consolidation depends, in part, on the development of municipal councils that can aggregate and process diverse societal interests at the local level, as well as on the ability of political candidates and politicians to represent and respond to citizens’ priorities. In this paper, we examine the local development priorities of candidates and citizens. We find that, overall, the municipal election candidates’ local priorities for governance do broadly correspond to those of citizens. For both candidates and citizens, the top four local issues are local roads, waste and the environment, local jobs, and security. Given the use of gender and age electoral quotas, we also examine how individual-level characteristics, such as gender and age, are correlated with the local development priorities of candidates and citizens. We find that women and youth do hold different priorities than their older and male counterparts, both at the citizen and candidate level. Accordingly, the quotas may improve substantive as well as descriptive representation. Finally, we examine the congruence of candidate and citizen priorities. We find a notable gap in local political priorities between candidates and citizens, particularly over employment and local security issues: citizens place a greater emphasis on employment than candidates and candidates place a greater emphasis on security. Drawing on interviews with municipal council candidates and surveys of both candidates and citizens, we argue that these differences result from the patterns of selection into political candidacy and confusion over the mandate of local councillors.

How Does Punishment Affect Reintegration? Attitudes Toward Islamic State "Collaborators" in Iraq

Mara Redlich Revkin and Kristen Kao


How does variation in the severity of punishment affect public opinion toward the reintegration of former nonviolent offenders? We study this question in the context of Iraq, where the United States has been heavily involved in the design and development of criminal justice institutions since overthrowing Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship in 2003. Building upon extensive fieldwork and interviews in Iraq, we designed a survey experiment that randomly varied the severity of sentences in hypothetical scenarios of nonviolent Islamic State “collaborators” (e.g., cleaners, cooks, and wives of fighters) to estimate the causal effects of punishment on attitudes toward reintegration. We find that a long prison sentence (15 years) does not increase the participants’ willingness to allow the reintegration of former offenders, but a noncarceral punishment (community service) has a small, but statistically significant, positive effect. Our most striking finding is that noncarceral and community-based justice mechanisms can significantly increase the likelihood of successful reintegration after punishment. Fifteen percent of respondents who were initially opposed to the return of former offenders to their communities said that they would be willing to support reintegration if they were asked to do so by a tribal or religious leader, or if the offender completes a noncarceral rehabilitation program. These findings suggest that noncarceral, restorative, and community-based justice mechanisms may be equally or more effective than long-term incarceration for achieving the objectives of rehabilitation and eventual reintegration of former nonviolent offenders. Our study also advances the field of comparative empirical legal scholarship by providing an innovative experimental research design that can be replicated by scholars studying the causal effects of criminal justice policies in other contexts.