Emergency Powers in Democracies and International Conflict Articles uri icon



publication date

  • March 2019

start page

  • 644

end page

  • 671


  • 3


  • 63

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0022-0027


  • Scholars argue that institutions in democracies constrain leaders and prevent international conflict. However, many democracies specify rules of governance in times of emergency that divert substantial power to the head of state. The manipulation of these "emergency powers" provides a rational motivation for conflict. Using a novel data set of emergency provisions within democracies, I test the relationship between emergency power strength and conflict propensity using several steps to achieve causal inference, including an instrumental variable analysis that exploits the specificity of the state's constitution as a plausibly exogenous determinant of emergency power strength. I find that emergency power strength is a strong predictor of conflict onset in democracies in each test and that states with strong emergency powers are substantially more likely to enact a state of emergency due to an international conflict. I conclude with a discussion of my findings and avenues of future research using these data.


  • bargaining; conflict; democratic institutions; domestic politics; internationalsecurity; interstate conflict; political leadership; enduring rivalries; human-rights; constraints; peace; initiation; behavior; logic; bias