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The Political Geography of the Local Security Apparatus

Institutions & Governance

Abstract: Many autocrats govern sub-national areas through appointed regional executives who have significant control over their individual jurisdictions. Autocrats employ one of two strategies to govern these sub-national jurisdictions, each achieved through management of regional executives: 1) co-optation, where autocrats improve local governance by appointing locally embedded regional executives – executives who are from the local population and enjoy long tenures – or 2) coercion, where autocrats ensure that regional executives put down local regime threats by minimizing local embeddedness – appointing non-native executives and shuffling them frequently. We argue that the prevailing regional strategy depends on the jurisdiction’s ex ante level of regime support. We test the theory with original data from Kenya and the Republic of Congo, encompassing 250 regional executives across three autocrats. Our findings highlight the similar ways in which autocrats manage their security apparatuses to limit varied popular threats.

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