International involvement and authoritarian consolidation : the case of the Palestinian Authority




El Kurd, Dana Saed

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What is the effect of international involvement on the consolidation of authoritarianism? Does such involvement have an effect on state-society relations? Moreover, what is the effect of this involvement on societal dynamics, in the long-term? I argue that such involvement not only affects behavior or preferences on the margins, but also restructures regime dynamics and societal interactions in a way that has yet to be examined fully in the political science literature. There is evidence to suggest that such involvement leads to polarization within society, but it is also important to understand the effect of that polarization on political behavior in the long-term. I argue that international involvement has three specific effects: 1) creating a principle-agent problem between the regime and society, thus disrupting state-society relations, 2) increasing polarization within society, and 3) inhibiting political engagement. I test the abovementioned argument through a number of observable implications. To test whether international involvement indeed creates a principle-agent problem, I look at opinions on political development both at the elite and public levels. Specifically, I ask individuals their preferences for democracy given certain conditions. I do so in two steps: First, I conduct elite-level interviews to address the opinions of PA officials on the issue of democratic development. Then, I pair this elite-level data with a survey experiment at the public level, attached to a nationally-representative survey. I provide empirical evidence of how international involvement may affect domestic preferences conditionally, depending on the relationship of individuals to the regime. I also provide evidence of a divergence in preferences across the state-society line as a result of international involvement. Secondly, I test whether such fragmentation has an effect on polarization. Changes in cooperation and political engagement are a particular implication we should find if polarization indeed has an effect. I utilize experimental methods to conduct laboratory experiments on the willingness of Palestinians to cooperate with those across the political spectrum. I argue that authoritarianism generates rising polarization, which in turn inhibits cohesion and collective action. I present a two-stage theory arguing that 1) particular forms of authoritarianism generate polarization, and 2) polarization subsequently affects social cohesion, and capacity for collective action. Results confirm the theory that authoritarianism, in particular forms, exacerbates polarization within society. This polarization in turn affects the ability and willingness of different segments to coordinate on a common task. In particular, exclusionary strategies such as repression generate greater levels of polarization than inclusionary strategies. The qualitative evidence shows that Islamists in the West Bank are much more insular and less willing to cooperate with others. Finally, to assess whether political engagement (in the form of mobilization) has changed over time also, I use both qualitative and quantitative data. First, I qualitatively assess the historical record of Palestinian mobilization and political engagement, using qualitative data. I focus on changes in coordination between political organizations over time. I pair this qualitative assessment with data from an original dataset which covers various types of mobilization within the Palestinian territories. This dataset contains day-by-day mobilization data, and can be used to assess changes in patterns of political engagement over time using statistical analysis. I find that mobilization has declined systematically in places where the Palestinian Authority has more direct control. Counter-intuitively, political mobilization today is actually more prevalent in areas under direct Israeli occupation. Findings suggest the PA has a direct role in this dynamic. Overall, authoritarian strategies have inhibited social cohesion generally, and led to a decreased capacity for mobilization



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