Democracy, threats and political repression in developing countries: Are democracies internally less violent?

P. M. Regan, E. A. Henderson

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Although previous research on the correlates of political repression has found a negative linear relationship between democracy and repression, we maintain that the relationship is more complex. We focus instead on the role of threats as a key precipitant to political repression and contend that scholars should attend to both non-linearities in analyses of political repression as well as Fein's (1995) argument that states with intermediate levels of democracy (ie semi-democracies) are more likely to be repressive. Such an orientation leads us to hypothesise that there is an inverted U relationship between regime type and political repression. In this article we examine this relationship for 91 less developed countries over the period 1979-92. The findings support the thesis and indicate that: (1) the level of threat is positively and significantly associated with political repression; (2) the level of threat has a greater impact than regime type on the likelihood of political repression; and (3) controlling for the level of threat, less developed states with intermediate levels of democracies-semidemocracies-have the highest levels of political repression.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)119-136
Number of pages18
JournalThird World Quarterly
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 22 2002


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Development

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