UC San Diego
Deliberative Autocracy : : Managing the Risks and Reaping the Rewards of Partial Liberalization in Vietnam
- Author(s): Schuler, Paul
- et al.
Most authoritarian regimes have legislatures. Are these institutions risky or beneficial for the regimes that establish them? Some argue that partial liberalization is dangerous because it gives opponents an opportunity to attack the regime. However, more recent work finds that partially liberalized regimes last longer and grow faster because these legislatures help neutralize opponents and stabilize power sharing arrangements. Unfortunately, these studies largely rely on cross-national evidence to support their claims, which prevents confirmation of the mechanisms linking legislatures to different outcomes. This project looks at speeches made in the Vietnam National Assembly between 2007 and 2013 to assess the risks regimes face when they allow delegates the opportunity to speak publicly. It shows that regime does not appear to invite robust criticism, as all genuine opponents are vetted during the election process. Instead, delegates mostly provide technocratic information on laws. However, despite the lack of true opposition figures, some delegates are nonetheless willing to challenge the regime on sensitive issues. These findings challenge the notion that critical behavior in a legislature is a sign of a co- opted opposition. Instead, this dissertation argues that in a single-party regime, such behavior is the unintended byproduct of an attempt to professionalize the legislature. Therefore, legislatures can provide benefits, but not without some unintended risks