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Comparative Institutions and Regimes

About the group

The research group on Comparative Institutions and Regimes (CIR) conducts research on questions pertaining to the conceptualization and measurement as well as causes and effects of different political institutions and regimes. Many (though far from all) studies of regimes focus on distinctions between democracies and autocracies. Most studies of particular institutions analyse one of the following categories: political parties, legislatures, and electoral institutions.

CIR is organized into five interlinked “nodes”, two on regimes and three on institutions:

  • Patterns and causes of regime change
  • Effects of political regimes
  • Parties and organized interests
  • Legislatures and political behaviour
  • Effects of electoral institutions

Node on Patterns and causes of regime change includes theoretical and empirical work on why some autocratic regimes endure whereas others break down (e.g. through revolutions or coup d’états). A main focus is on democratization processes and their various political and socio-economic causes. Another object of study is: what causes some democracies to endure, or even improve in democratic quality, whereas others break down or deteriorate in democratic quality. Finally, the node encompasses conceptual and measurement work on political regimes, including operationalization of, and data collection for, several widely used indices of democracy.

Node on Effects of political regimes largely focuses on two types of effects of regime types, namely political violence and economic development. Regarding the former this node has, for instance, studied how regime type affects the likelihood of civil war, with one key finding being that regimes mixing autocratic and democratic features are more prone to experience civil war, but also, e.g., how regime type affects the incentives of leaders to commit mass murder. Regarding economic development, focus has been placed on how different regimes affect long-term income growth, but several studies have investigated other pertinent outcomes such as income inequality, property rights protection and educational attainment.

Node on Parties and organized interests  mainly focuses on the structure and behaviour of political parties and organized interests in democracies. It involves theoretical and empirical work on connections between how parties organize and compete for votes and the quality of party-based representative democracy. Another key topic concerns parties, interest groups and the relationship between them. Studies map and seek to explain variation, both at the party group- and country-level, in the strength of relational ties between (particular) parties and different organized interests. Recent efforts have also been made to study whether and how the institutionalization of political parties – and of parties’ relations with (selected) organized interests – affects policy-making and outcomes such as economic growth.

Node on Legislatures and political behavior  studies legislative organization and how institutional arrangements matter for legislative behaviour and other outcomes. Examples are how investiture procedures affect government stability, legislative cohesion and ministerial tenure, and how parliamentary agenda rights of governments and matter for the development of unified legislative parties. This node also studies, e.g., how legislative organization fosters committee specialization, key to the balance of power between executive and legislature; and consequences of the strategic recording of individual voting decisions for parties’ abilities to shape legislation.

Node on Effects of electoral institutions studies how electoral institutions shape legislative behaviour, e.g. in terms of plenary votes and debates. One key distinction is between candidate- and party-centred electoral systems; while ambitious legislators in party centred systems mainly need to cater to the party leadership, they need to cultivate a personal voter base to realize career ambitions in candidate centred systems. Yet other studies have addressed how electoral institutions, in democracies and autocracies, affect wider societal outcomes, such as economic growth or political violence. While the consequences of (constitutional) electoral rules are central, some researchers have elaborated on how, e.g., features of the media environment affect links between elections and various outcomes.

Seminars and activities

The research group regularly organizes research seminars. Those seminars are open to participants from outside the group. If you would like to receive invitations to the seminars, you can subscribe to our mailing list.

The CIR group also organizes The Empirical Implications of Theoretical Models (EITM) Summer Institute, which is a training program for graduate students and junior faculty.


Published Aug. 10, 2017 2:58 PM - Last modified Sep. 19, 2022 9:49 AM