State Capacity and the Development of Political Party Systems

My dissertation focuses on why party systems in hybrid regimes vary. I argue that in some conditions, enhancing a state’s capacity to implement policy can encourage cooperation among loyal opposition parties. At lower levels of state capacity, regimes manage elites through clientelism or corruption, which encourages elites to either join the leader’s ruling party or form a large number of small parties. As state infrastructural power increases, bargaining over policy becomes a viable option. Elites gain an incentive to form larger and more stable political parties, leading to a more consolidated loyal opposition.  I evaluate my argument in two ways: First, I establish that party system fractionalization in hybrid regimes is conditional on state capacity using time-series cross-sectional statistical analysis. Second, using structured interviews and survey experiments in four Eurasian countries that vary across state infrastructural power and freedom of expression, I test the hypotheses that elites find regime policy commitments more credible and are more likely to bargain over policy in countries with higher infrastructural power.

Elite Preferences in Transitional States

How do elite political preferences and behavior change during and after a democratic transition?  I hypothesize that as the time after a democratic transition increases, short-term strategic calculation based on electoral outcomes increases. Elites will increasingly base their decisions on which parties to join on estimates of which will most likely gain office, at the expense of both underlying policy preferences and social ties. This research will contribute to the literature on democratization and political parties by providing a rare direct measure of long-assumed changes in elite attitudes and behaviors in transitional environments — a series of interviews and elite surveys in Armenia from before and after their “Velvet Revolution” in April 2018.