Crisis, Coercion, and Authoritarian Durability: Explaining Diverging Responses to Anti-Regime Protest in Egypt and Iran

43 Pages Posted: 8 Sep 2012

See all articles by Jean Lachapelle

Jean Lachapelle

University of Michigan

Lucan A. Way

University of Toronto

Steven Levitsky

Harvard University

Date Written: 2012


Focusing on Iran in 2009 and Egypt in 2011, this paper examines the role of the coercive apparatus in responding to crises triggered by mass anti-regime protest. We argue that the divergent outcomes of the two crises – authoritarian resilience in Iran and regime breakdown in Egypt – can be traced to the regimes’ distinct origins. On the one hand, the Iranian Islamic regime’s founding in sustained, violent, and ideologically driven struggle (1978-1983) created a regime elite and coercive apparatus with the stomach and capacity for high intensity coercion necessary to defend the regime against mass-based threats. Revolution, counter-insurgency, and war during the regime’s early years led to the growth of an ideologically motivated and highly partisan security services. In Egypt, by contrast, the absence of origins in violent, revolutionary struggle led to the creation of a coercive apparatus with weaker, more situational cohesion. The regime’s overall coercive capacity was high, but in the absence of a revolutionary heritage, the willingness of the repressive apparatus to suppress large-scale, mass protest was more open to question than in Iran.

Keywords: protest, coercion, Egypt, Iran, police, authoritarianism, regime, transition

JEL Classification: Z00

Suggested Citation

Lachapelle, Jean and Way, Lucan A. and Levitsky, Steven, Crisis, Coercion, and Authoritarian Durability: Explaining Diverging Responses to Anti-Regime Protest in Egypt and Iran (2012). Prepared for presentation at the American Political Science Association Annual Meeting, New Orleans, 31 August 2012. Available at SSRN:

Jean Lachapelle

University of Michigan ( email )

500 Church Street
Ann Arbor, MI MI 48019
United States

Lucan A. Way (Contact Author)

University of Toronto ( email )

Toronto, Ontario M5S 3G8

Steven Levitsky

Harvard University ( email )

1875 Cambridge Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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