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Identifying the Causal Effect of Truth Revelation Procedures on the Quality of Democratic Representation

Wednesday November 27, 2019, from 13:30 to 15:00
Room 24.013 (Ground Floor). Mercè Rodoreda building 24

Milena Ang (University of Chicago)

Authors: Milena Ang, Genevieve Bates, and Monika Nalepa

Does transitional justice hinder or help democracy? This question is fundamental to understand democratic consolidation, and yet it is hard to address methodologically: after all, countries embarking on transitional justice may be the same ones that would have had a successful pathway to democratization anyway. In this paper, we acknowledge Bakiner's (2016) criticism of transitional justice measurement-- that mechanisms for dealing with the past cannot be assigned a discrete implementation date-- and propose an alternative assumption that enables us to identify the causal effect of transitional justice policies, specifically truth commissions and lustration. In short, we argue that truth revelation procedures are better measured not as a single-shot occurrence (implementation or no implementation), but rather as a series of events that occur through time. We argue that our approach both represents more faithfully the processes that take place in the ground, and enables the use of causal identification techniques to pinpoint the effect of truth revelation procedures on the quality of democracy. To illustrate this latter point, we draw from the Varieties of Democracy data and implement a difference-in-differences research design to estimate the causal effect of truth-revelation procedures on democratic outcomes. Consistent with the growing literature on transitional justice and its effects, we find that truth revelation procedures--and truth commissions in particular,--decrease the level of political corruption and help decrease the influence that former authoritarian elites might have on the new regimes.

Seminar organised within the IBEI Research Cluster Security, Conflict and Peace

Milena Ang is a Harper Schmidt Fellow in the Society of Fellows at the University of Chicago. Her research interests include comparative democratization processes, accountability of political elites, and the Mexican criminal justice system. Before getting her Ph.D. from the University of Chicago, Milena obtained a B.A. in Political Science from CIDE in Mexico city.