Democratization at the Margins

47 Pages Posted: 8 Aug 2013  

Bann Seng Tan

College of William and Mary

Date Written: 2013


Is foreign aid effective for democracy promotion? Since democratization is costly for the recipients, they can be expected to exploit aid fungibility and seek alternative donors where they can. Primary recipients, or states with the strategic or economic attributes that matches the donors’ priorities, should be able to switch between alternative donors for the needed aid. Consequently, donor pressure for democratization on these primary recipients should be less effective. This account dovetails with the selectorate perspective which treats aid as a means by which donors purchase policy concessions from recipients. While the selectorate perspective explains the lack of democratization amongst recipients with valuable policy concessions to offer in lieu of democratization, it leaves open the prospect of democratization in the subset of recipients with little else to offer in exchange for aid. The argument here is that for such secondary recipients, the donors will prioritize secondary objectives such as democratization. These secondary recipients are susceptible to donor pressure because they lack the attributes to attract competing aid offers. Assuming that the benefits of aid exceed the costs of democratization, these are the most likely candidates to democratize as a result of donor pressure. To test the implication, I use project level aid from AidData 2.1 and regime-type information from Polity IV. The results suggest the same aid dynamic that decreases democratization in primary recipients also increases it in secondary recipients.

Keywords: donor pressure, democratization, aid conditionality

Suggested Citation

Tan, Bann Seng, Democratization at the Margins (2013). APSA 2013 Annual Meeting Paper; American Political Science Association 2013 Annual Meeting. Available at SSRN:

Bann Seng Tan (Contact Author)

College of William and Mary ( email )

Government Dept, College of William & Mary
Post Office Box 8795
Williamsburg, VA 23187-7895
United States
7572212266 (Phone)

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