This paper analyses the influence of political institutions on the development of financial cooperatives. It proposes a political economy theory where autocratic regimes deliberately oppose the development of a well-functioning financial cooperative sector to maintain their political influence, and prevent the formation of strong pressure groups that can threaten the current political status quo and reduce the governing elites’ economic benefits from underdeveloped and exclusive financial sector. Using panel data from 65 developing countries from 1995–2014, the results show that democracy, political rights and civil liberties promote financial cooperative development. These results are robust in controlling for endogeneity as well as other economic and institutional factors.
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