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Nodding or Needling: Analyzing Delegate Responsiveness in an Authoritarian Parliament



Recent scholarship argues that one solution to ensure longevity and economic growth in an authoritarian regime is to co-opt potential opposition by offering them limited policy influence in a national legislature. Although cooptation theory generates a number of predictions for delegate behavior within an authoritarian parliament, the opacity of such regimes has made empirical confirmation difficult. We resolve this problem by exploiting the transcripts of query sessions in the Vietnamese National Assembly, where delegates question the prime minister and Cabinet members on important issues of the day. Using a content analysis of queries, we offer the first empirical test of delegate behavior in nondemocratic parliaments. We find that some delegates exhibit behavior consistent with cooptation theory by actively participating in sessions, demonstrating criticism of authorities, and responding to the needs of local constituents. Such responsiveness, however, is parameterized by regime rules for nominating, electing, and assigning parliamentary responsibilities to individual delegates.


Corresponding author

Edmund J. Malesky is Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science, University of California–San Diego, 9500 Gilman Drive, La Jolla, CA 92093 (
Paul Schuler is Ph.D. candidate, Department of Political Science, University of California–San Diego, 9500 Gilman Drive, La Jolla, CA 92093 (


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