Faculty Fellow

Monika Nalepa, Associate Professor of Political Science


How do former authoritarian elites utilize the secret information acquired by the former enforcement apparatus associated with their respective regimes? I seek to learn whether such information can be used to blackmail politicians to make policy concessions, or whether previously undisclosed information about human rights abuses can jeopardize a new democracy's chances of survival. This line of research marks a new direction in comparative politics that examines the relationship between transitional justice (TJ) and the quality of democratic representation. It focuses on policies aimed at vetting political candidates for acts of collaboration with the authoritarian regime, and possible human rights violations committed in the past. This process is known as lustration. Revealing evidence of past authoritarian wrongs may prevent former authoritarian elites from influencing policy in new democracies. In preliminary work, I show that former authoritarian elites' influence tends to decrease with severity of transitional justice, but increases as voters view politicians' involvement with the former authoritarian regime as an important issue. The work also suggests that the effectiveness of TJ policies is reduced in the absence of a free press, as the media's inability to uncover empty threats which allows former autocrats to extract policy concessions. Surprisingly, the magnitude of ideological differences between current politicians and successors of authoritarian elites has no bearing on the ability of former autocrats to extract such concessions. This research will work to develop stronger measures of TJ severity to help evaluate how transitional justice can contribute to stable democratic transitions.


Monika Nalepa (PhD, Columbia University) is associate professor of political science at the University of Chicago. With a focus on post-communist Europe, her research interests include transitional justice, parties and legislatures, and game-theoretic approaches to comparative politics. Her first book, Skeletons in the Closet: Transitional Justice in Post-Communist Europe was published in the Cambridge Studies in Comparative Politics Series and received the Best Book award from the Comparative Democratization section of the APSA and the Leon Epstein Outstanding Book Award from the Political Organizations and Parties section of the APSA. She has published her research in the Journal of Comparative PoliticsWorld PoliticsJournal of Conflict ResolutionJournal of Theoretical Politics, and Decyzje. Her next book manuscript, Parties Ascendant, examines the development of programmatic parties in new democracies with a special focus on legislative institutions.