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“How To Endure Pain Without Democratic Tranquilizer: Controlling Information While Evading Term Limits” by JunHyeok Jang

August 5, 2020 @ 9:00 am - 10:00 am

[Paper, Slides]

Author: JunHyeok Jang (UC, Merced)

Abstract: Politicians eroding democratic institutions to consolidate personal powers are supposed to meet with social opposition. Violation of fundamental constitutional arrangements such as term limits, the so-called ``bright light" institutions, should particularly result in anti-government movements. Empirically, however, we observe decreased rather than increased anti-government mobilization after term limit evasions. I argue that political leaders pre-empt protests against them during and after term limit evasions by limiting the free flow of information. Using the difference-in-differences within a matched set that share the history of treatments and a similar level of covariates, I show term limit evasions are followed by a significant decrease in a country's freedom of expression. In addition, using Venezuela as an example, I provide micro-evidence of information control by investigating how topics of opposition media change after term-limit evasion. Specifically, automated text analysis shows that a leader evading term limits not only censors threatening political information but also induces the media to fill with distracting and apolitical information.

Discussants: Dimitar Gueorguiev (Syracuse), Anne Meng (UVA), Elvin Ong (NUS).

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