An Opportunity for Backing Down

Looking for an Electoral Connection to Audience Costs

Kiyotaka Yasui, Ryo Nakai

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

1 Citation (Scopus)

Abstract

This paper explores the time-inconsistency problem of audience costs in international disputes. The nature of democracy makes it difficult for leaders to back down from earlier diplomatic positions in an international dispute, out of fear of domestic political costs. Few studies have addressed the temporal aspect of such costs. This study argues that election timing impinges on the extent to which the audience cost mechanism works, and consequently, on state conflict behavior. While competitive elections are central to the political accountability inherent in a democracy, voters typically lack enough opportunities to punish unsatisfactory leaders in a timely way, because of fixed election timing, and also may disregard foreign policy missteps that occurred in the distant past. Democratic leaders therefore have an incentive to choose strategically, with the electoral calendar in mind, when selecting a form of conflict behavior. Leaders can retreat from their demands without paying high audience costs when the upcoming election is in the distant future. To test this argument, the authors conduct a natural experiment featuring territorial disputes between Russia and two Baltic republics-Estonia and Latvia. Despite the commonalities in the disputes, as well as in their political systems and socioeconomic backgrounds, the governments of the two Baltic countries showed a sharp contrast in their diplomatic decisions. This paper argues that only the temporal gap in electoral timing can explain this variation, imparting the ironical implication that frequent democratic elections can obstruct peaceful conflict resolutions, and that excessive democratization may well hinder the very goal of peace.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)168-189
Number of pages22
JournalJapanese Journal of Political Science
Volume17
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2016 Jun 1

Fingerprint

election
conflict behavior
leader
costs
democracy
Latvia
Estonia
conflict resolution
political system
democratization
foreign policy
republic
peace
Russia
incentive
anxiety
responsibility
lack
experiment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations

Cite this

An Opportunity for Backing Down : Looking for an Electoral Connection to Audience Costs. / Yasui, Kiyotaka; Nakai, Ryo.

In: Japanese Journal of Political Science, Vol. 17, No. 2, 01.06.2016, p. 168-189.

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

@article{e725eff04acf450cb8be6fa7dee21cf3,
title = "An Opportunity for Backing Down: Looking for an Electoral Connection to Audience Costs",
abstract = "This paper explores the time-inconsistency problem of audience costs in international disputes. The nature of democracy makes it difficult for leaders to back down from earlier diplomatic positions in an international dispute, out of fear of domestic political costs. Few studies have addressed the temporal aspect of such costs. This study argues that election timing impinges on the extent to which the audience cost mechanism works, and consequently, on state conflict behavior. While competitive elections are central to the political accountability inherent in a democracy, voters typically lack enough opportunities to punish unsatisfactory leaders in a timely way, because of fixed election timing, and also may disregard foreign policy missteps that occurred in the distant past. Democratic leaders therefore have an incentive to choose strategically, with the electoral calendar in mind, when selecting a form of conflict behavior. Leaders can retreat from their demands without paying high audience costs when the upcoming election is in the distant future. To test this argument, the authors conduct a natural experiment featuring territorial disputes between Russia and two Baltic republics-Estonia and Latvia. Despite the commonalities in the disputes, as well as in their political systems and socioeconomic backgrounds, the governments of the two Baltic countries showed a sharp contrast in their diplomatic decisions. This paper argues that only the temporal gap in electoral timing can explain this variation, imparting the ironical implication that frequent democratic elections can obstruct peaceful conflict resolutions, and that excessive democratization may well hinder the very goal of peace.",
author = "Kiyotaka Yasui and Ryo Nakai",
year = "2016",
month = "6",
day = "1",
doi = "10.1017/S1468109916000025",
language = "English",
volume = "17",
pages = "168--189",
journal = "Japanese Journal of Political Science",
issn = "1468-1099",
publisher = "Cambridge University Press",
number = "2",

}

TY - JOUR

T1 - An Opportunity for Backing Down

T2 - Looking for an Electoral Connection to Audience Costs

AU - Yasui, Kiyotaka

AU - Nakai, Ryo

PY - 2016/6/1

Y1 - 2016/6/1

N2 - This paper explores the time-inconsistency problem of audience costs in international disputes. The nature of democracy makes it difficult for leaders to back down from earlier diplomatic positions in an international dispute, out of fear of domestic political costs. Few studies have addressed the temporal aspect of such costs. This study argues that election timing impinges on the extent to which the audience cost mechanism works, and consequently, on state conflict behavior. While competitive elections are central to the political accountability inherent in a democracy, voters typically lack enough opportunities to punish unsatisfactory leaders in a timely way, because of fixed election timing, and also may disregard foreign policy missteps that occurred in the distant past. Democratic leaders therefore have an incentive to choose strategically, with the electoral calendar in mind, when selecting a form of conflict behavior. Leaders can retreat from their demands without paying high audience costs when the upcoming election is in the distant future. To test this argument, the authors conduct a natural experiment featuring territorial disputes between Russia and two Baltic republics-Estonia and Latvia. Despite the commonalities in the disputes, as well as in their political systems and socioeconomic backgrounds, the governments of the two Baltic countries showed a sharp contrast in their diplomatic decisions. This paper argues that only the temporal gap in electoral timing can explain this variation, imparting the ironical implication that frequent democratic elections can obstruct peaceful conflict resolutions, and that excessive democratization may well hinder the very goal of peace.

AB - This paper explores the time-inconsistency problem of audience costs in international disputes. The nature of democracy makes it difficult for leaders to back down from earlier diplomatic positions in an international dispute, out of fear of domestic political costs. Few studies have addressed the temporal aspect of such costs. This study argues that election timing impinges on the extent to which the audience cost mechanism works, and consequently, on state conflict behavior. While competitive elections are central to the political accountability inherent in a democracy, voters typically lack enough opportunities to punish unsatisfactory leaders in a timely way, because of fixed election timing, and also may disregard foreign policy missteps that occurred in the distant past. Democratic leaders therefore have an incentive to choose strategically, with the electoral calendar in mind, when selecting a form of conflict behavior. Leaders can retreat from their demands without paying high audience costs when the upcoming election is in the distant future. To test this argument, the authors conduct a natural experiment featuring territorial disputes between Russia and two Baltic republics-Estonia and Latvia. Despite the commonalities in the disputes, as well as in their political systems and socioeconomic backgrounds, the governments of the two Baltic countries showed a sharp contrast in their diplomatic decisions. This paper argues that only the temporal gap in electoral timing can explain this variation, imparting the ironical implication that frequent democratic elections can obstruct peaceful conflict resolutions, and that excessive democratization may well hinder the very goal of peace.

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/record.url?scp=84964702261&partnerID=8YFLogxK

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/citedby.url?scp=84964702261&partnerID=8YFLogxK

U2 - 10.1017/S1468109916000025

DO - 10.1017/S1468109916000025

M3 - Review article

VL - 17

SP - 168

EP - 189

JO - Japanese Journal of Political Science

JF - Japanese Journal of Political Science

SN - 1468-1099

IS - 2

ER -