In Latin American democracies, many provinces and states display autocratic characteristics that are at odds with the national democratic context. The literature on subnational authoritarianism has cope with this puzzle, but the explanations rely mostly on the political and economic role of the national government. In order to explain the emergence and resilience of autocratic subnational governments, I present a theory that looks into the internal dynamics. I argue that subnational autocracies are possible in a context of low economic diversification. Undiversified economies with a dominant economic sector create a network of interests aligned with the incumbent and reduce the support for the opposition parties. In more diversified economies the inter-capitalist competition transfers economic actors’ demands to the political arena, financing opposition parties whenever they feel they are being unheard. I find evidence to support my argument and flesh out the mechanisms at work in a “most similar case” comparison of two neighboring states in Brazil: Bahia and Minas Gerais.


Benoit, K., & Marsh, M. (2003). For a Few Euros More Campaign Spending Effects in the Irish Local Elections of 1999. Party Politics, 9(5), 561-582.

Behrend, J., & Whitehead, L. (2016). The struggle for subnational democracy. Journal of Democracy, 27(2), 155-169.

Bergan, E. (2005). Party Campaign Finance and Electoral Competition. (Doctoral Dissertation). Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois.

Borges, A. (2006) Governo estadual, competição política e mudança institucional: lições comparativas da reforma da gestão escolar no Brasil. In: Souza, C. e Dantas Neto, P. (orgs.). Governo, políticas públicas e elites políticas nos estados brasileiros. Rio de Janeiro: Revan

- (2007). Rethinking state politics: the withering of state dominant machines in Brazil. Brazilian Political Science Review (Online), 2(SE), 0-0.

- (2011). The political consequences of center-led redistribution in Brazilian federalism: The fall of subnational party machines. Latin American Research Review, 46(3), 21-45.

Box-Steffensmeier, J. M., & Dow, J. K. (1992). Campaign contributions in an unregulated setting: an analysis of the 1984 and 1986 California Assembly elections. The Western Political Quarterly, 609-628.

Casas-Zamora, K. (2005). Paying for democracy: political finance and state funding for parties. ECPR Press.

Cox, G. W., & Thies, M. F. (2000). How Much Does Money Matter? “Buying” Votes in Japan, 1967-1990. Comparative Political Studies, 33(1), 37-57.

- (2011). Mudança política na Bahia: circulação, competição ou pluralismo de elites. Observatório Social do Nordeste. Fundação Joaquim Nabuco.

Denver, D., Hands, G., & MacAllister, I. (2004). The electoral impact of constituency campaigning in Britain, 1992–2001. Political Studies, 52(2), 289-306.

Eismeier, T. J., & Pollock III, P. H. (1986). Strategy and choice in congressional elections: The role of political action committees. American Journal of Political Science, 197-213.

Erikson, R. S., & Palfrey, T. R. (1998). Campaign spending and incumbency: an alternative simultaneous equations approach. The Journal of Politics, 60(02), 355-373.

Fisher, J., & Eisenstadt, T. (2004). Comparative Party Finance: What is to be done? Party Politics, 10, 619-626.

Freille, S. (2015). Do private campaign contributions affect electoral results: An examination of Argentine national elections. Paper presented at the XII Congreso Nacional de Ciencia Política, Mendoza, 12-15 de Agosto.

George, A. L., & Bennett, A. (2005). Case studies and theory development in the social sciences: Mit Press.

Gervasoni, C. (2010). A rentier theory of subnational regimes: Fiscal federalism, democracy, and authoritarianism in the Argentine provinces. World Politics, 62(02), 302-340.

Gibson, E. L. (2012). Boundary control: subnational authoritarianism in federal democracies. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Giraudy, A. (2015). Democrats and Autocrats: Pathways of Subnational Undemocratic Regime Continuity within Democratic Countries: Oxford University Press.

Green, D. P., & Krasno, J. S. (1988). Salvation for the spendthrift incumbent: Reestimating the effects of campaign spending in House elections. American Journal of Political Science, 884-907.

Hart, D. M. (2001). Why do some firms give? Why do some give a lot?: high-tech PACs, 1977–1996. The Journal of Politics, 63(04), 1230-1249.

Herrmann, J. D. (2014). Reflections on Regime Change and Democracy in Bahia, Brazil. Latin American Research Review, 49(3), 23-44.

Jacobson, G. C. (1978). The effects of campaign spending in congressional elections. American Political Science Review, 72(02), 469-491.

Key Jr, V. (1949). Southern Politics in State and Nation. New York: AA Knopf.

Levitsky, S., & Way, L. (2002). The rise of competitive authoritarianism. Journal of democracy, 13(2), 51-65.

Mancuso, W. P., Figueiredo Filho, D. B., Speck, B. W., Silva, L. E. O., & Rocha, E. C. D. (2016). Corporate Dependence in Brazil's 2010 Elections for Federal Deputy. Brazilian Political Science Review, 10(3).

McMann, K. M. (2006). Economic autonomy and democracy: hybrid regimes in Russia and Kyrgyzstan: Cambridge University Press.

- (2017). Measuring subnational democracy: toward improved regime typologies and theories of regime change. Democratization, 1-19

Miranda, N. (2003). Memória Essencial. A trajetória vitoriosa do PT em Minas Gerais. Belo Horizonte: Segrac Editora e Gráfica.

Mickey, R. (2015). Paths Out of Dixie: The Democratization of Authoritarian Enclaves in America's Deep South, 1944-1972. Princeton University Press.

Montero, A. (2007). Uneven democracy? Subnational authoritarianism in democratic Brazil. Paper presented at the Latin American Studies Association Annual Meeting. Montreal, Quebec, Canada.

O'Donnell, G. A. (2004). Why the rule of law matters. Journal of democracy, 15(4), 32-46.

Rubim, A. A. C. (2001). ACM: poder, mídia e política. Paper presented at the X Encontro Anual da Associação Nacional dos Programas de Pós-Graduação em Comunicação (COMPÓS), Brasília/DF, 29.

Samuels, D. (2001). Incumbents and challengers on a level playing field: assessing the impact of campaign finance in Brazil. The Journal of Politics, 63(02), 569-584.

Scarrow, S. E. (2007). Political finance in comparative perspective. Annu. Rev. Polit. Sci., 10, 193-210.

Schedler, A. (2009). Electoral authoritarianism. The SAGE Handbook of Comparative Politics, 381.

Schlozman, K. L., Verba, S., & Brady, H. E. (2012). The unheavenly chorus: Unequal political voice and the broken promise of American democracy: Princeton University Press.

Snyder, R. (2001). Scaling down: The subnational comparative method. Studies in Comparative International Development, 36(1), 93-110.

Suárez-Cao, J., Batlle, M., & Wills-Otero, L. (2017). El auge de los estudios sobre la política subnacional latinoamericana. Colombia Internacional, (90), 15-34.

Trumm, S., Sudulich, L., & Townsley, J. (2017). Information effect on voter turnout: How campaign spending mobilises voters. Acta Politica, 52(4), 461-478.

Valdez, A. H. (2000). Las causas estructurales de la democracia local en México, 1989-1998. Política y gobierno, 7(1), 101-144.

Zakaria, F. (1997). The rise of illiberal democracy. Foreign affairs, 76(6), 22-43.