While considerable empirical evidence shows democratic dyads to be less prone to violence than other types of regime pairs, disagreement still exists on the causal factors inhibiting conflict among democratic states. Some scholars have concluded that increased attention needs to be given to identifying specific characteristics of democratic states that might mitigate or incite coercive foreign policy actions. This article begins to pull apart the Polity IIId regime index by assessing the role of political participation in crisis bargaining. If the ability of opposition groups to challenge government policies enables state leaders to communicate credibly their intentions and thus avoid conflict, increased attention needs to be given to the permanence of such structural features of the domestic political environment. What may facilitate efficient signaling is not only competitive political participation, but also the enduring nature of such participation. Regimes that oscillate between severe restrictions on political participation and regulated competition engage in more escalatory behavior because they fail to signal their preferences effectively. The results indicate that while democracy has little effect on MID reciprocation, factionalism among domestic political groups tends to be strongly associated with such a dispute response. Contiguity, military balance, and years at peace also appear to influence dispute reciprocation.
Prins, Brandon C. (2003) Institutional Instability and the Credibility of Audience Costs: Political Participation and Interstate Crisis Bargaining, 1816-1992’, Journal of Peace Research 40 (1): 67–84.