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Political Regimes and the Determinants of Terrorism and Counter-Terrorism

Contentious Politics
Terrorism
Political Regime
State Power
Mario Gilli
Department of Economics, Management and Statistics - University of Milano-Bicocca
Mario Gilli
Department of Economics, Management and Statistics - University of Milano-Bicocca

Abstract

Why some democratic governments have sometimes a weak reaction to terrorism, while apparently similar democratic regimes react harshly? More generally, what are the determinants of overnments’reaction to terrorism? And, what are the determinants of terrorism and of its dynamic? Our point of view is that domestic terrorism is a¤ected, among others, by three crucial parameters: a country economic development, the political heterogeneity of its citizens and the terrorists’human capital. On the other hand, two crucial components that characterize political regimes are accountability and political responsiveness towards citizens. Our model is aimed to analyze the interaction between these government’s characteristics and these citizen’s factors. We now have a large body of data to try to empirically ground the answers to these questions. However, these empirical researches have not reached a common consensus for example on the socioeconomic determinants of terrorism. In this paper we argue that a possible reason for this lack of shar emprical results is that observable terrorism activities are endogenous to the governments’counter-terrorism choices, which in turn does depend on political and socioeconomic factors. The point is that both causes and consequences of terror can only be understood in terms of strategic interaction among political actors, primarily government and citizens. Within this frame, we are able to show that the game has three possible equilibrium outcomes, uniquely determined by our structural parameters: a Strong Regime characterized by 1no terrorism, high counter-terrorism and increasing protests; a Flexible Regime characterized by low terrorism which might increase or decrease according to the random repressive reaction of the government with increasing protests if there is high counter-terrorism; and a Permissive Regime characterized by terrorism activity, no counter-terrorism and no protests. Moreover, we show that there is not a simple relationship between the politic dimensions that characterize a polity as more or less democratic, the exogenous parameters and the policy regimes, so that it is perfectly possible for a democratic regime to repress harshly and for an autocratic polity to be permissive.