Turning to and from Terror: Deciphering the Conditions under Which Political Groups Choose Violent and Nonviolent Tactics

Turning to and from Terror: Deciphering the Conditions under Which Political Groups Choose Violent and Nonviolent Tactics


by Susanne Martin and Arie Perliger



Political parties and terrorist groups are seldom viewed as comparable organizations. While both have political ambitions and an interest in mobilizing popular support, the former are associated with the use of legitimate formal-legal tactics to obtain political goals and the latter, in contrast, are typically associated with the use of violence. However, these characteristics are not always compatible with the empirical evidence. In fact, some political parties have employed violence in order to promote their goals, while many terrorist groups have adopted nonviolent tactics in order to achieve theirs. In order to account for similarities and differences between these organizations, we conceptualize political parties and terrorist organizations as political groups that use different tactics under different conditions. We examine the relative attractiveness of choices between violent and nonviolent tactics in an effort to uncover the factors shaping the strategic decisions of diverse political groups. Subsequently, we present and test a theoretical framework, which serves as a foundation for the analysis of the shifts in tactics undertaken by different political groups.



It has been more than twenty years since Leonard Weinberg and Bill Eubank published their highly insightful typology of party-terror linkages.[1] This typology summarizes the variety of forms that linkages between political parties and terrorist groups have taken, along with examples of these types. A year later, Weinberg extended the discussion to include the conditions under which political parties are more likely to engage in terrorism, noting differences between political parties and terrorist groups while simultaneously highlighting the ways in which these political groups are similar.[2] The view of participating in party politics and engaging in terrorism as tactics, which may be used by different types of political groups under varying conditions, follows easily from this description. Despite the initial impact of this work, there has been relatively little development in the literature on linkages between political parties and terrorist groups. A resurgence of interest and new research, however, suggests that this is changing.[3]

This renewed interest in the topic of party-terror linkages has inspired us to revisit and further develop the research questions raised by Weinberg and Eubank some twenty years ago. We begin by elaborating on the work that has been done to date on the relationships between political parties and terrorist groups. We build on this work by empirically testing current understandings of the conditions under which political parties and terrorist groups alternate between engaging in party politics and terrorist tactics and the types of political parties and terrorist groups that are most likely to change their tactics. In this analysis, we focus on cases in which terrorist groups form ties with political parties and cases in which political parties form ties with terrorist groups. We refer to these as party-terror linkages and we view the formation of these linkages as a shift in tactics. We present three explanations for the formation of party-terror linkages, drawing support for each explanation from the literatures on three widely-corroborated categories of explanatory variables.[4] We then discuss the ways in which related factors influence the attractiveness of shifting between party politics and terrorism. In this way, we advance the literature on party-terror linkages, offering a point of departure for the growing collection of new scholarship in the field. We conclude with an evaluation of the implications of our findings for discussions and debates among students and scholars of party-terror linkages.


Explaining Shifts in Political Tactics

In this analysis, we address some of the questions most central to understanding the cases in which political groups shift to or from terrorism: Why do political parties and terrorist groups sometimes change their tactics? What leads these groups to experiment with terrorism or party politics, or some combination of these tactics? Under what conditions are groups more likely to change their tactics and which types of political groups are most likely to do so? Despite increased interest in political groups with ties to party politics and terrorist activities, very few answers have been offered to these questions.

In this article, we move from an elaboration of a static typology, as presented in the 1991 article, to an analysis of a dynamic event, as is evidenced by the large number of instances in which groups have shifted between terrorism and party politics. We show that shifts in tactics offer strong support for the contention that the strategic behavior of political groups changes over time as a function of changes in the attractiveness of different tactics. Changes in the attractiveness of different tactics are themselves a function of changes in the environment within which these groups operate, although the attractiveness of tactics, we argue, differs for different types of political groups. By empirically testing existing understandings of party-terror linkages, we provide further evidence in support of the argument that variations in the attractiveness of political tactics are mediated by political conditions and group characteristics.


The Development of the Literature

This effort represents an extension of the research on linkages between political parties and terrorist groups. When it comes to explaining the reasons that political groups alternate between terrorism and party politics, scholarship over the last twenty years has left a noticeable void in the literature. This void is particularly evident with regard to concepts, theory, methodology, and case selection.


Conceptual Limitations

The literature on party-terror linkages is limited by the distinctive designation and separate treatment of political parties and terrorist groups within the political science literature. In fact, different types of political groups are frequently distinguished by the tactics they employ. In terms of tactics, political parties and terrorist groups are seldom viewed as comparable organizations. Political parties are typically recognized as groups working in accordance with established institutions to aggregate diverse interests, compete for popular support, obtain political office, and influence domestic politics.[5] With the exception of many communist parties, political parties are relatively transparent in their organization and operations; they are recognized as legitimate actors and key components of democratic systems.[6] Above all, political parties are widely assumed to use formal-legal tactics, not violence, to achieve political ends. It should be noted, however, that most definitions of political parties do not require that the party be committed to nonviolent tactics.

By contrast, definitions of terrorist groups most often refer to groups operating at the fringes of society, outside of the political system. Terrorist groups are commonly viewed as illegitimate actors, illegal, unrepresentative, and disruptive to the political systems within which they operate. They engage in terrorist violence, itself a contested term generally referring to the threat or use of violence, oftentimes perpetrated against noncombatants in order to incite fear, for the purpose of influencing political outcomes.[7] Terrorist groups are often secretive with regard to their operations and organization. Above all, terrorist groups are presumed to be illegal organizations utilizing illegal tactics, most notably tactics of a violent nature, in order to obtain political ends.

While these descriptions are generally accepted, they demonstrate a Western democratic bias, and a contemporary one at that.[8] In other parts of the world—for instance in Sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia—some organizations calling themselves political parties are anything but peaceful. If we follow Ware’s definition of a political party as “…an institution that 1) seeks to influence a state, often by attempting to occupy political offices by putting forth candidates in electoral competitions, and 2) usually consists of more than a single interest in the society and so, to some degree, attempts to ‘aggregate interests’,”[9] then it is not obvious that these groups must be simultaneously committed to nonviolent political activities in order to be labeled as political parties. In principle then, there is no reason why political parties, institutions thus defined, cannot engage in terrorism or other types of political violence.[10] Similarly, when labeling organizations as terrorist groups, it is necessary to bear in mind that terrorism is a type of activity rather than a type of organization, and an organization that uses terrorism may also use other types of tactics.[11]

In fact, shifts between tactics adopted by a specific political group are observable. Evidence of shifts between party politics and terrorism comes from the numerous examples of political parties turning to terrorism and from the many examples of terrorist groups supporting, forming, or becoming political parties.[12] Two additional observations are notable. First, evidence of political groups engaging in party politics and terrorism supports the view of political strategies as flexible, rather than fixed. Second, these observations raise questions about popular designations of political parties and terrorist groups as distinct types of groups. If political parties sometimes engage in terrorist tactics and terrorist groups occasionally engage in party politics, then the assumption of a dichotomous distinction between these two groups on the basis of the tactics they use can be called into question.

We bridge these largely separate literatures through our conceptualization of political groups and political tactics. We draw insights for these concepts from Weinberg and his colleagues. In this analysis, we focus on shifts in political tactics and, in particular, on shifts between participating in party politics and engaging in terrorism. We view participating in party politics, including organizing as a political party, contesting elections, or supporting candidates in electoral competitions, as one type of tactic used by some political groups. We view terrorism as another type of tactic, and as a type of political violence, which is used by some political groups some of the time. Our understanding of participating in party politics and terrorism as tactics leads us to a designation of political groups that is broader than either political parties or terrorist groups. Political groups, including political parties and terrorist groups, have political objectives.

We apply the typology presented by Weinberg and Eubank and use this typology to explore two categories of shifts in tactics.[13] One category includes cases in which political parties turn to terrorism. The other category includes cases in which terrorist groups turn to party politics. Consistent with this typology, we do not assume that turning to party politics or terrorism requires abandoning other tactics. Political parties engaging in terrorism may continue to compete in elections. Likewise, terrorist groups turning to party politics may continue to engage in terrorism. Political groups choose from among a variety of tactics in order to achieve their objectives and selecting among available tactics is an important part of a political strategy.[14]


Theoretical Limitations

The scholarship on party-terror linkages is perhaps most limited when it comes to offering explanations for why political groups shift between terrorism and party politics. Orlandrew Danzell offers a significant critique of theoretical progress in the study of political parties turning to terrorism, calling this work the product of “anecdotal and historical assumptions.”[15] Despite these limitations, many of which are admitted by their authors, significant contributions have been made to the collective understanding of shifts in tactics and the formation of party-terror linkages.

Investigating the origins of terrorist groups, Weinberg and Eubank observe that most modern terrorist groups originate as political parties, turning to terrorism in reaction to changes in domestic political conditions. They note the coincidence of regime changes and transitions from party politics to terrorism. They also discuss the features of parties that cause them to be more susceptible to these types of transformation, namely parties suffering from state oppression, promoting a particular extreme ideology and being unable to garner significant electoral support.[16] In his subsequent contribution, Weinberg highlights two group-level characteristics of political parties that turn to terrorism: “grandiose goals” and the perceived “illegitimacy of the prevailing political order.”[17] After 1991, the main theoretical contributions directed toward understanding the reasons political groups shift between party politics and terrorism come from the work of Weinberg and his colleagues, who have collectively contributed to three books on the topic of political parties and terrorist groups.[18] Whereas the first book is an edited volume with contributions from experts on political groups engaged in both terrorism and party politics, the subsequent books go a long way toward providing theoretical explanations for why groups alternate between these tactics. These contributions remain the most thorough and theoretical works on the topic. In particular, the 2008 book addresses the conditions under which political groups “enter” and “exit” terrorism. Weinberg, Pedahzur, and Perliger associate the “entry into terrorism” with the polarization of party systems and domestic crises, such as crises of national integration and disintegration, as well as crises of legitimacy regarding the rules of the political game. They also list changes in the political order and repression by the state as conditions under which terrorist groups may abandon armed conflict. Other explanations for these types of transitions include the difficulties associated with operating clandestinely, such as maintaining popular support and acquiring resources, as well as offers of amnesty from the government.[19]

Danzell addresses one part of this question, focusing on the subset of political parties that turn to terrorism. Importantly, Danzell adds to the discussion through his attention to regime ideology, structural relationships, and strategic calculations:[20] “Opposition political parties can consequently be expected to turn to terrorism more frequently when right-wing governments are in power than when center or leftist parties control the government.”[21] Other contributions address factors that may be related to the eventual transition to party politics without necessarily making the connection. With a focus on Hamas, Gunning observes that the group’s penchant for organizational survival provides incentives for moderation over time in terms of group objectives.[22] Importantly, Gunning writes prior to Hamas’ participation in municipal and parliamentary elections. Taken together, these works mentioned above provide a useful starting point for enhancing our understanding of the shifts in tactics undertaken by political groups. At the same time, much of the remaining literature does not address the questions of why groups undertake shifts to or from terrorism that are central to this analysis. For instance, many contributions to the literature address outcomes associated with shifts in tactics and the formation of party-terror linkages, while giving considerably less attention to the causes of these shifts. Rather than explaining why groups turn to party politics, these transitions are taken as given and used as a starting point for analyses. Much of this work focuses on outcomes associated with these shifts. For Hovdenak, Hamas’ transition into a political party should be viewed as “an opportunity rather than an obstacle for Palestinian democratization.”[23] Wiegand attributes Hezbollah’s successes as a political party in Lebanon to its “political leverage” and gradual moderation.[24] Largely absent are explanations for why Hezbollah formed a political party in the first place. Neumann argues that participating in party politics has had an effect on the strategies preferred by elements within the Irish Republican movement. While admitting to the relevance of other “enabling factors” present within a political environment (for instance, repression and outside intervention) and within the political groups (such as leaders’ views and actions), Neumann credits public aspects of participating in party politics, including publically engaging in political dialogue and being held responsible to public opinion through voting, with the movement’s decreased resort to armed violence.[25] An understanding such as this provides important insights into how participating in party politics may lead to a reduction in terrorism without explaining what leads to participating in party politics.

Furthermore, with notable exceptions such as the contributions by Weinberg and Danzell,[26] most of the literature focuses on the subset of terrorist groups that turn to party politics rather than the political parties that turn to terrorism. This is true even among political groups undertaking “life-cycle” transformations, for which the focus seems to lie with the transition to party politics. This can be explained in large part by the coincidence in the timing of the development of this literature and the transitions of many well-known violent groups and formerly-violent groups to party politics. The recent focus on the Muslim Brotherhood’s electoral victories in Egypt provides just one example.

Attention to the transition to party politics is no less apparent when attention is turned to the developing literature on the end of terrorism. The transition to party politics is one way by which a political group may cease acting as a terrorist group.[27] Another of the key differences between the party-terrorism literature and the end of terrorism literature is the attention in the latter to the abandonment of violence and the allowance in the former for the continued use of both violent and nonviolent political tactics.

We are less interested in explaining why terrorism ends than in explaining why political groups shift to and from terrorism. We draw attention to insights from the literature in order to gain leverage on the questions of which groups undertake these shifts and why.


Methodological Limitations and Case Selection

Arriving at answers to the harder question of why political groups transition between terrorist tactics and acting as political parties has also been hampered by the methods and cases most commonly selected in studies of party-terror linkages. The majority of the work on the political groups that have turned to and from terrorism has been undertaken in the form of case studies. Qualitative approaches serve an important role in this literature, providing descriptive insights into individual cases, which cannot be easily achieved through larger-n analyses. At the same time, while case studies can be used to derive and test theories, single case studies cannot be used simultaneously for both purposes. More to the point, there are limits to using a single case to derive general hypotheses for why political groups turn to and from terrorism. A potential bias can also be found in work relying on comparisons of two or a few cases, especially when these cases are situated within a single region or time period and when they represent one type of outcome. Moreover, while studies focusing on limited cases provide insights into the conditions under which some groups shift tactics and the types of groups that shift tactics, they fall short in offering insights into why other similar or similarly situated groups do not.

A further limitation becomes apparent when considering the breadth of cases receiving the bulk of attention. Many of the studies focus on a handful of well-known cases. In the past much of this attention was focused on the Irish Republican Army (IRA) and Euskadi ta’ Askatasuna (ETA), both of which engaged in violent forms of political competition, while maintaining ties to political parties. Today more attention is given to Hamas and Hezbollah, two groups that have been identified as having engaged in terrorist tactics prior to turning to party politics.

We address this limitation through our analysis of close to two hundred cases of party-terror linkages and approximately the same number of terrorist groups with no documented ties to political parties. We use a dataset that includes detailed descriptions of each political group as well as information by which these groups may be compared. We discuss the data in more detail before turning to a discussion and analysis of explanatory factors.


Data and Design

We analyze data contained in the dataset that was used in the 2008 edition of Political Parties and Terrorist Groups.[28] This dataset includes information on terrorist groups operating at some point in time between 1900 and 2004. The dataset was constructed from descriptions of violent political groups found in several sources, including the MIPT Terrorism Knowledge Base, the United States Department of State’s Patterns of Global Terrorism Project, and Schmid and Jongman’s collaborative guide to terrorist groups.[29] These sources include many more groups than are included in this analysis. The dataset is limited to those groups whose activities meet four commonly-accepted criteria for describing terrorist activity: (1) the use or threat of violence (2) against non-combatants (3) in order to influence a broad audience (4) for the purposes of achieving political goals.[30] Rather than looking at violent political groups engaging in political violence, more broadly defined, we limit this analysis to groups engaging in a specific type of violent tactic: terrorism.

Applying this definition of terrorism, the dataset that originally included more than 2000 cases was whittled to 430 terrorist groups.[31] Further analysis of each of these terrorist groups reveals numerous connections between them and political parties. Although each of the groups in the dataset has used terrorism, nearly half of the groups (n = 203) have also had ties to political parties (see Figure 1). Of these, two-thirds are cases in which political parties supported, created, or splintered and transitioned into terrorist groups (n = 134) and slightly less than one quarter are cases in which terrorist groups created or became political parties (n = 48). The remaining ten percent are divided between “life-cycle” transformations (n = 11) and splits within political movements (n = 10). “Life-cycle” transformations are cases in which political parties transitioned into terrorist groups and then remade themselves as political parties.[32] In other cases, political parties and terrorist groups originate within a single political movement.[33] Each of these types represents a shift in tactics. As Weinberg, Pedahzur, and Perliger point out, “we are dealing with a relatively common phenomenon…Links between parties and terrorist activities are by no means rare or exotic.”[34]

Figure 1: Types of shifts in tactics[35]

Figure 1


Three Types of Explanations

A review of the relevant literatures suggests at least three types of factors that contribute to changes in the relative attractiveness of political tactics: features of regimes, the type of party system, and group characteristics. Though these factors are not exhaustive, they provide a useful starting point for a developing literature.


Regime Characteristics

The first, and perhaps most studied, set of explanations for shifts to and from terrorism addresses the influence of regime characteristics. The relationship between regime type and terrorist tactics has been and continues to be the subject of an intense debate. From one perspective, democratic regimes are expected to discourage the use of violent tactics by protecting individual rights, facilitating peaceful political competition, and providing various channels for the expression and promotion of political agendas. Moreover, in democracies an independent judicial system provides a form of protection from oppression produced by the political apparatus. In contrast, authoritarian regimes stifle political violence by controlling political activities, placing limitations on competition, and suppressing dissent.[36] It seems that much of this debate pits measurements of the effect of democracy on the presence of terrorist groups, which is the Eubank and Weinberg approach, against the effect of democracy on the number of terrorist incidents, which represents the Sandler critique.[37] Eubank and Weinberg find that democracies are more likely to have terrorist groups.[38] Sandler, on the other hand, argues that understanding the link between democracy and terrorism requires an examination of terrorist events rather than the presence of groups,[39] a critique Eubank and Weinberg answer when they find that terrorist events are also more likely to occur in democratic settings.[40] Recent work by Chenoweth suggests that intergroup competition can help to explain both the number of terrorist groups and acts of terrorism.[41] To the extent that democracy facilitates increases in intergroup competition and the formation of interest groups, it is possible to see how democracy can be correlated with increases in terrorist group formation as well as the incidence of terrorism.

Discussions related to counterterrorism policy add to the debate over regime type. Abrahms focuses on the liberal components of democracy when he constructs his argument that democracies are “superior counterterrorists.”[42] This is a perspective supported by Kibble in his argument that institutionalized tolerance and justice are important prerequisites for countering terrorism.[43]

As the focus of this project is on the presence of party-terror linkages, the expectation is that the original Eubank and Weinberg model for examining the presence of terrorist groups is more applicable to the party-terror research agenda. We expect that democracies are more likely to have political parties. Following Eubank and Weinberg, we expect that democracies are also more likely to have terrorist groups. Taking these expectations one step further, we expect that some democracies will have groups engaging in both party politics and terrorism. In addition, consolidated authoritarian regimes are expected to have fewer party-terror linkages in large part because they will not have the supply of political parties or the type of political party competition that can be found in democracies.

Democracies, minimally defined, are designated on the basis of the presence of elections, presumably of the free, fair, and frequent type. While we find that the overwhelming majority of party-terror linkages exist in states with presidential or parliamentary institutions (88%), we also recognize that the presence of these institutions cannot be directly equated with the presence of democracy. Still, the overwhelming majority of party-terror linkages are found in states with some type of democratic institution. A higher number of party-terror linkages are found in states with POLITY[44] scores ranging from weakly to strongly democratic than in states with strongly authoritarian regimes. At the same time, a graph of the frequencies of party-terror linkages at various POLITY scores reveals an unexpected finding. Only slightly more cases of party-terror linkages are present in consolidated democracies than in consolidated authoritarian regimes.  Despite this finding, it is important to note the likely differences between political parties operating in consolidated authoritarian systems and those operating in consolidated democratic systems, especially in terms of their political influence, power, and operations.  As with different types of regime, we are likely dealing with different types of political parties.  With these findings in mind, we next direct our analysis to a discussion of regime strength and stability, where we find better support for the relationship between regime characteristics and the presence of party-terror linkages.

Discussions of regime strength and weakness are integrally related to discussions of regime type. We distinguish strong and weak regimes on the bases of institutionalization and capacity. Drawing on the notion of institutionalization, we distinguish between states with consolidated authoritarian regimes and established democratic regimes. Not all regimes are either strongly authoritarian or fully democratic.  Some regimes have institutional arrangements oftentimes associated with democracy—elections, political parties, and legislatures—while failing to meet the definitional requirement of a functional democracy (i.e. fairness of the electoral processes, preservation of civil liberties and etc.). These regimes, which mix elements of democracy and authoritarianism, are sometimes referred to as “mixed” regimes. Mixed regimes are generally understood to be weaker regime types,[45] though they may not be actively transitioning in the direction of authoritarianism or democracy.[46] States with weak regimes are often less capable than their fully democratic and strictly authoritarian counterparts at conditioning or controlling political competition. Weaker regimes lack the capacity to police the operations of political groups, missing an opportunity to prevent violence in the process. Moreover, unlike in states with consolidated regimes, institutions in states with mixed regimes are often relatively young, less developed, and in a process of transition; they may lack widespread acceptance; their political institutions may be subject to renegotiation; and they may be unprepared to produce policies capable of alleviating, rather than aggravating, grievances. Using the case of Spain as an example, Encarnación discusses the added risk that weak democracies will employ policies that are damaging to democratic legitimacy and simultaneously ill-suited for fighting terrorism.[47] Piazza also finds that weak regimes are especially vulnerable to terrorism.[48] Similarly, Wade and Reiter find that mixed regimes are more likely to experience suicide terrorism in contexts in which a minority religious group is also present.[49] Hegre, Ellingsen, Gates, and Gleditsch also make a connection between regime type and internal violence, finding “intermediate regimes” to be more likely to experience conflict than democratic or authoritarian regimes.[50] Consistent with these arguments is that of Wintrobe, who argues that democratic regimes and totalitarian regimes are less likely to experience suicide terrorism.[51] The condition of being simultaneously open to competition, yet lacking consolidation, is an inherent weakness of mixed regimes, which, in combination with other factors, contributes to an increased likelihood that political groups will resort to violence.[52] In contrast to consolidated regimes, unconsolidated, weaker, or less stable regimes have fewer resources from which to draw in order to discourage the political use of violence. In the absence of stable regime conditions and effective policing, political groups operating in these states may be more likely to shift between terrorism and party politics.

Our analysis of the data found evidence that supports these explanations of the relationship between regime strength and a group’s tactical shifts. Including both democracies and authoritarian regimes in the analysis, we find that political groups with party-terror linkages appear more often in states with weaker regime types than in states with stronger, more established regimes. Two-thirds of party-terror linkages occur in states with POLITY scores ranging from -8 to 8. In fact, party-terror linkages are three times more prevalent in states with weak regimes than in strong democracies and nearly four times more prevalent in states with weak regimes than in strongly authoritarian states. One notable finding is that there are spikes in the numbers of party-terror linkages occurring at the cusps of POLITY measures indicating strong democracy and strong authoritarianism, lending further credibility to the argument that regime stability matters, though perhaps not in the ways theorized within some of the literature, wherein expectations are based on static regime types rather than on changes in regimes.[53]

With regard to regime stability, Eubank and Weinberg find that stable democracies are more likely to experience terrorist attacks and that these terrorist attacks are more likely to be perpetrated by the state’s own citizens, an outcome that is distinct from, but not completely independent of, the presence of terrorist groups within a state.[54] Highlighting the interdependence of regime characteristics and complementing Eubank and Weinberg’s argument, it is interesting to note Hegre, Ellingsen, Gates, and Gleditsch’s findings that, while both democratic and authoritarian regimes have counterterrorism capacities, democracies are inherently more stable than authoritarian regimes, which are more stable than “intermediate regimes.”[55] Other disruptions, which may lead political parties to embrace clandestine or violent activities, include foreign invasions and military coups. These may fuel a turn to terrorism among political groups, as happened following military coups in Algeria in the 1990s and Brazil in the 1960s. Findings such as these underscore the extent to which regime type, strength, and stability factor into explanations for terrorism. We expect that the majority of shifts between terrorist tactics and party politics will appear in weak democracies in which the unstable rules of the political game encourage or even compel groups to alter the methods they employ in order to obtain their goals, and not in strong, veteran democracies or in countries that have minimal experience with democratic processes.

On the other hand, while consolidated regimes are expected to experience lower levels of political violence[56] and the establishment of democracy has been tied, almost by definition, to an increase in opportunities for nonviolent political competition, the transition from authoritarianism to democracy can be treacherous. In addition to the risks posed by processes of democratization for international conflict,[57] democratization is also recognized as having dangerous domestic side effects with regard to creating conditions conducive to internal violence.[58] Drawing from these findings, we expect that changes in levels of democracy will be associated with changes in tactics. In particular, and in contrast to some of the democratization literature, we expect that increases in democracy (increases in levels of democracy or increases in the presence of indicators of democracy) will be associated with an increase in shifts to party politics, and that decreases in democracy (decreases in levels of democracy or decreases in the presence of indicators of democracy) will be associated with an increase in shifts to terrorist tactics. We also expect to find more shifts toward violent tactics in states with unstable regimes, especially when these states are experiencing democratic collapse.[59] Weinberg and Eubank’s findings tying regime change to terrorism are particularly relevant in this regard.[60]

We can unpack the relationship between regime change, stability, and shifts in tactics in two ways. With regard to regime changes, we observe that most party-terror linkages are formed in states with one or more regime changes.[61] With regard to changes in levels of democracy, we find that increases in democracy are tied to an increase in the formation of party-terror linkages (mainly terrorist groups turning to legitimate political tactics). In fact, levels of democracy rise on average 3.5 points from the time of a group’s formation to the time of a group’s tactical shift to legitimate politics (1.26 and 4.77, respectively; see also Figure 2). The same does not hold for shifts to terrorism among political parties (see Figure 3). Decreases in levels of democracy are associated with transitions to terrorism among a minority of the political parties that undertake such shifts. Many more political parties turn to terrorism independently of significant changes in levels of democracy. In addition, in some cases, political groups transitioned to party politics under conditions of decreasing democracy rather than increasing democracy. In Figure 2 it is clear that the level of democracy at the time of a shift to party politics is typically higher than the level of democracy at the time that a terrorist group was established.  In Figure 3 it is clear that the level of democracy at the time of a shift to terrorism is typically lower than the level of democracy at the time the political party was formed.  At the same time, both figures show that this is not universally the case.

Figure 2: Levels of democracy at the time of the establishment of terrorist groups and at the time of shifts to party politics

Figure 2

Figure 3: Levels of democracy prior to and at the time in which the party transitioned into a terrorist group

Figure 3

These differences can be explained in several ways. First, reductions in levels of democracy may coincide with more general repression, which may stifle various forms of political activity. Second, it may be that political parties, which are proportionately less likely to undergo shifts in tactics than terrorist groups, are influenced by different factors than terrorist groups. In other words, causal mechanisms may differ between cases in which parties shift to terrorism and terrorist groups shift to party politics. Third, political parties are more likely to be older, less extremist, and more hierarchical than terrorist groups. Differences in explanations regarding shifts in tactics may be tied to the relative importance of organizational factors in explaining the formation of party-terror linkages. Finally, most of these party-terror linkages take place in states with weak regimes. Much of the variation in outcomes may be explained by variations in the environments within which these groups operate.

Furthering the discussion of regime characteristics, and pointing to some potential causes for inconsistencies among findings, Alonso and O’Boyle highlight the relevance of contextual factors. Alonso argues that the (mis-)interpretation of existing models of conflict resolution and peace-making helps to explain divergent strategy choices and outcomes, while O’Boyle questions whether different types of groups may offer different justifications for their choices of tactics.[62] As these works show, we find considerable variation in explanatory and outcome variables within this literature. Much of this variation can be explained by group-level analyses, an issue that we will address momentarily.

It is important to emphasize an additional factor, differences in institutional design among regimes, which is tied to regime type as well as choices among tactics. Differences in institutional design add an important element to explanations of the impact of regime type and characteristics. Many institutions have a bearing on access to power and, as a result, the ability for political groups to achieve their goals through legal political channels.[63] For instance, parliamentary systems are often viewed more favorably as being less rigid and more inclusive of diverse interests than presidential systems, whereas presidential systems—with their winner-take-all underpinnings and fixed electoral timelines—can be seen as inflexible and exclusionary.[64] In contrast, presidential regimes can be viewed as more institutionally stable, with their fixed timelines.[65] In fact, Schneider and Wiesehomeier argue that presidential systems are more war-prone than other types of systems.[66] When considered through the lens of political groups competing for influence within a political system, questions of legitimacy and stability are intertwined. For these reasons, we expect that violent tactics will be more attractive to political groups operating in states with presidential regimes, which may encourage competition while simultaneously making it more difficult to influence government.

There is preliminary support for the influence of presidential institutions on the formation of party-terror linkages. There is a slightly higher prevalence of political parties shifting to violence in presidential systems (48%) than in parliamentary systems (38%) or other types of systems. Many cases of tactical shifts take place in autocratic regimes, which are neither presidential nor parliamentary (12%). Shifts from party politics to terrorism are approximately 1.3 times more likely in presidential regimes than in parliamentary regimes. Shifts from terrorism to party politics are approximately 1.4 times more likely in presidential regimes than in parliamentary regimes. Even more interesting is the distinction within the subset of cases of political groups shifting to party politics. The data indicate that in presidential regimes, terrorist groups shifting to party politics are considerably more likely to become political parties (78%), whereas in parliamentary regimes, terrorist groups shifting to party politics are considerably more likely to create political parties while continuing to use terrorism (88%). These distinctions are not evident among cases of political parties incorporating terrorist tactics.


Party System Characteristics

A second category of explanations for party-terror linkages can be found in the literature on party systems. A focus on party systems draws attention to local practices of political competition, which have an important influence on intergroup competition.

There are many ways in which party system characteristics influence the attractiveness of political tactics and, as a result, the makeup of political strategies. Different cleavage structures are institutionalized in different systems. Because of the potential problems associated with finding common ground, polarized party systems are of particular relevance to the discussion of selecting and shifting between political tactics.

A polarized party system is characterized by extreme viewpoints, stalemate, and, in some cases, exclusion. Polarization reflects “ideological distance” as well as “the attitudes of parties to the regime itself and to other parties in the regime,”[67] and may be associated with the presence of anti-system parties.[68] A “bidding process” or “mutually reinforcing extremisms” may provide a catalyst for tactical shifts favoring the use of violence.[69] Similarly, extremism, stalemate, or exclusion may make nonviolent tactics ineffective and unattractive.

The relationship between polarization and political tactics is dynamic and interdependent. High levels of polarization, which may be associated with exclusion or may lead to increases in levels of extremism, can be expected to encourage the strategic use of violence. The strategic use of violence can also be expected in societies characterized by “cultural distance” and long-lasting grievances.[70] This has been observed, for example, in the Basque region of Spain.[71] On the other hand, violence may bring about social polarization, as occurred in South Africa during Apartheid,[72] and the use of violence may bring about increases in polarization, “cultural distance,” and long-lasting grievances. In these cases, polarization may occur as a side-effect of the interactions of political groups.[73] In fact, political actors may conceive of polarization as a political tool, such as is evidenced through examples of the manipulation of ethnic identities for securing political support.

With regard to the implications of party system polarization for explanations of choices of tactics and changes in tactics, there is evidence suggesting that party system polarization coincides both temporally and geographically to regions with high numbers of party-terror linkages, especially among states with large numbers of political groups turning to terrorism.[74] Evidence of polarization in Europe and Latin America during the 1960s and 1970s coincides with shifts toward violence, providing the groundwork for further analysis at the level of individual political groups and the states within which they have operated (see Table 1).[75]

Table 1: Political parties turning to terrorism across space and time

Table 1


Group Characteristics

A third category of explanations for party-terror linkages relates to group characteristics.[76] The relative attractiveness of political tactics is influenced by a variety of group characteristics. Two types of influences are particularly important for this analysis. One is related to interpretations of political opportunities and the ways in which these interpretations interact with the perceived benefits of various political tactics. The other is related to the group’s ability to orchestrate shifts in tactics. Factors such as group ideology, group age, and organizational structure interact with the political environment and associated political opportunities to influence the relative attractiveness of various political tactics.

Ideology is one organizational characteristic influencing interpretations of political opportunities and the suitability of various tactics. Different ideologies are often associated with varying levels of extremism. The impact of extremism, in turn, is mediated by the environment within which a political group operates. In some environments, extremist groups have difficulty garnering public support and, as a result, are less likely to find success through electoral competition.[77] Poor electoral performance, a lack of support, exclusion, and perceptions of mass passivity can be linked to the resort to violence.[78]In other environments, especially those marked by higher levels of polarization, extremist groups are able to appeal to a segment of the population, in the process attracting public support.

In most cases, extremist groups are less likely to view the ruling regime as legitimate, making them less likely to participate in party politics and more likely to employ strategies made up of alternative tactics. These groups often maintain absolutist demands (i.e., all or nothing), making them more likely to view compromise as being akin to abandoning the group’s goals. Moderation is an important concession for political groups participating in party politics. A group that is unwilling to moderate will likely find less success in party politics and will be less likely to view these tactics as attractive. Although government policies encouraging group moderation through the appeasement of some of a group’s goals may lead to a reduction in public support for a group and an overall reduction in violence,[79] groups that moderate have been known to experience splintering, leading to the creation of more extremist and less extremist (more moderate) factions.[80]

These factors lend credence to the expectation that more extremist political groups are more likely to employ violent tactics. In fact, an analysis of the cases of party-terror linkages shows interesting trends in the relationship between ideology and tactical shifts. As compared to groups with leftist, rightist, and nationalist-separatist ideologies, far fewer of the violent groups that shift to party politics have a religious ideology (see Figure 4). This is explained in large part by the smaller number of religious terrorist groups operating during the period under study.  Nearly twice as many groups maintained left-wing ideologies than either nationalist-separatist or right-wing ideologies. There were nearly four times more left-wing terrorist groups than religious terrorist groups. At the same time, whereas approximately 30 percent of violent religious groups are known to have ties with political parties, greater than half of leftist, rightist, and nationalist-separatist groups are associated with party-terror linkages. Also of interest is the fact that only one violent religious group transitioned to nonviolence by forming a tie with a political party; the other thirteen (of fourteen) groups forming party-terror linkages underwent the opposite shift, adding violent tactics to their strategic repertoires. The ratios of groups shifting to party politics are approximately equal for religious groups (7% of shifts undertaken by religious groups) and right-wing groups (9%), though these are far lower than among left-wing groups (26%) and nationalist-separatist groups (37%). In short, left-wing and nationalist-separatist terrorist groups have been more likely to turn to party politics than their religious and right-wing counterparts. The uncompromising nature of many religious and right-wing ideologies, especially in their extreme forms, may provide a partial explanation of this trend.[81] Cases of violent religious political groups are found overwhelmingly in the Middle East and Asia (forty-three of forty-six cases). In future studies, it would be useful to consider the cases with attention to context, recognizing that environmental factors may influence not only the formation of religious political groups, but also their strategic behavior. Furthermore, thirty-seven of the groups are identified as being Islamist, so it would be interesting to further disaggregate the cases by religious denomination, recognizing differences within religious communities as well as between them.

Figure 4: Ideologies of terrorist groups that turn to party politics [82]

Figure 4

Time is another important factor in determinations of the attractiveness of political tactics. Organizations with longer life spans have more time within which to experiment with a variety of tactics and more opportunities to experience the advantages or repercussions of these tactics. Over time, it may become apparent that one type of tactic is ineffective or insufficient for achieving a political group’s goals. In addition, political groups with longer life spans are more likely to experience environmental changes, such as regime consolidation or collapse, party system polarization, shifts in government policies, and changes in people’s experiences and expectations, which affect the relative attractiveness of political tactics and influence their strategic decision-making. Moreover, a group’s level of extremism, like its tactics, can change over time. As time goes by, a maturing group—or a maturing leadership and membership—may moderate, substituting more attainable objectives and exchanging the absence of political gains for the chance at modest political gains.[83] Similarly, an aging membership or leadership may become less radical over time, also leading to a reduction in levels of extremism. This may occur as a result of experience, experimentation with alternative tactics, or changes in the interests or goals of individual members as they enter new stages of life. Over time, a number of political groups have undergone gradual shifts favoring an increased use of nonviolent tactics, including the IRA and Sinn Fein, Fatah, and ETA, although it is important to note that moderation—as with appeasement through government policies—may coincide with the formation of violent factions by more radical, and often younger, elements of an organization.[84] Changes in political opportunities and incentives take time to develop. Likewise, changes in tactics take time to implement. Looking at the issue from another perspective, groups may achieve longer life spans because they adapt to their environments, perhaps adopting new tactics and moderating their objectives over time. In this sense, longer life spans become the result of shifts in tactics rather than their cause. For these reasons, organizations with longer life spans are more likely to view shifts in tactics favorably and are more likely to find nonviolent tactics attractive.

Statistical analysis strongly supports these contentions. After omitting all groups that had a brief lifespan,[85] as well as those groups that did not begin as terrorist groups, we found that the average age of the terrorist groups that have chosen to experiment with nonviolent tactics (23.3) is almost twice as high as the average age of the groups that did not use such tactics in any stage of their existence (12.2). An ANOVA analysis between the groups yields a significant (p<.001) result (F=17.203). However, rather than arguing exclusively that longer life spans are a prerequisite for tactical shifts or that shifts in tactics lead to longer life spans, it is likely that both processes are at work. It is also probable that the less mature political groups that have yet to alter their tactics will undergo shifts at some future point during their life spans. Further research is needed to determine the answers to these questions.

Organizational structure is another important factor in political group decision-making. Organizational structures affect the ways in which decisions are made within an organization, affecting within-group communication, the sharing of ideas, and the uniformity of group experiences. Insights can be drawn from organizational theory. Hierarchical political groups are more likely to have a strong leadership with the capacity for top-down communication, centralized decision-making, coherent programs, and consistent enforcement or reinforcement of group objectives and operations.[86] In contrast, political groups organized as networks may lack this centralized management and leadership. A group’s leadership is important for communicating changes to group objectives, conveying a need to reevaluate tactics and strategies, and constructing a platform for reinforcing shared experiences. For these reasons, groups with network structures will be less likely to collectively assess tactical alternatives or coherently implement tactical changes. As a result, groups with network structures are less likely to view changes in tactics as possible—much less attractive—alternatives.

Furthermore, political parties may be best described as hierarchically organized. When these organizations form ties with violent groups, they are more likely to form ties with groups organized hierarchically, which have a leadership with whom they can communicate. When political parties employ violent tactics, they are likely either to maintain their hierarchical structure or create hierarchically-structured militant branches.[87]

There is some preliminary support for these expectations. Excluding cases in which no organizational structure is identified, of all of the terrorist groups included in the dataset, approximately 70% are described as hierarchical. Among the subset of terrorist groups with ties to political parties, this increases to nearly 75% of the cases. In other words, hierarchical groups make up a larger proportion of groups undertaking shifts in tactics. The findings are less conclusive with regard to differentiating between cases in which the party-terror linkage is initiated by a political party or by a terrorist group. For both types of shifts, hierarchical organizational structures are present in approximately 75% of the cases. Furthermore, an apparent difference in the percentage of party-terror linkages associated with horizontally-structured political groups can be attributed, at least in part, to missing data. These findings suggest that regardless of the direction of shift—to or from terrorism—groups forming party-terror linkages are more likely to be hierarchically-organized than horizontally-organized. Because groups are seldom, if ever, fully hierarchical or fully horizontal, a further disaggregation of the data on the basis of organizational structure may be necessary in order to parse out these distinctions and their relations to tactical shifts.


Concluding Remarks

While the literature on linkages between political parties and terrorist groups remains in its infancy, there is a considerable foundation upon which to build. This foundation includes the creation of a typology of party-terror linkages, which was introduced to comparative political scientists more than twenty years ago. It also includes a rich literature on terrorism and insights gained from the more general political science writings on a variety of factors relevant for explaining and understanding tactical and strategic shifts. These, in combination with the handful of other published works on the topic of party-terror linkages, make up a small literature, but a rich starting point for the development of this research agenda.

We build upon this foundation through the identification of key factors for explaining the shifts in tactics that lead to the formation of party-terror linkages, and our testing of these factors through quantitative analysis. In sum, what we offer in this article is a proposed starting point for the further development of this research agenda, with potential theoretical implications and policy applications for domestic and international security. An understanding of the foundations of party-terror linkages at the contextual and organizational levels can be drawn from an understanding of the conditions under which political groups turn to or from terrorism and the types of political groups that are most likely to undertake these shifts.

This analysis contributes to the considerable volume of work currently in progress on topics associated with uncovering explanations for party-terror linkages, but is not without limitations. We employ an existing dataset, which categorizes political groups based on their participation in terrorist activities. This dataset does not include the universe of political parties, which would provide a useful complement for understanding the conditions under which political parties choose not to turn to terrorism. Also, although every effort was taken to ensure that the dataset would be accurate, there is no expectation that it is perfect. Many terrorist groups, especially active groups, remain highly clandestine. Much of the information we know about groups may be called into question because of the high level of private information. Third, the statistical analysis is not highly sophisticated. We elaborate on simple descriptive statistics in order to point to trends and issues for further consideration. Fourth, rather than offering an integrated theory, something that is notably absent in this literature, we investigate explanatory factors in a manner that treats them as largely separate influences. Moreover, we draw attention to explanations found in the existing literature and highlight the factors that may help explain why and which groups turn to and from terrorism. Future scholarship may benefit from coding and quantifying these factors and conducting more sophisticated forms of multivariate analysis that identifies relative levels of importance for each factor.

The next steps for researchers interested in explaining cases of party-terror linkages will necessarily involve dealing with possible distinctions between explanations for cases in which political parties turn to terrorism and cases in which political parties engage in political violence, more generally-conceived. Future research should also delve further into differences among the political groups operating under different conditions and the potential limitations of these differences for theorizing across cases. Furthermore, scholars will continue to benefit from the development of case-specific knowledge, which plays an integral role in the creation of new knowledge and is often done through elaborations of individual case studies. Finally, the contributions of scholars focusing on this field of research, complemented by the continuation of constructive discussions and debates regarding its key points, is what is most needed in the development of the current research agenda.

Acknowledgments: We would like to thank Prof. Ami Pedahzur, Prof. Leonard Weinberg and Prof. Elizabeth Francis for their valuable assistance at different stages in the development of this manuscript. We would also like to thank two anonymous reviewers for their comments on this article. Earlier versions of this text were presented in 2008 at the annual meetings of the Western Political Science Association, International Studies Association, and Midwest Political Science Association.


About the Authors:

Susanne Martin is an assistant professor in the Political Science Department at the University of Nevada, Reno. Dr. Martin works on questions related to political violence, political parties, and political tactics.

Arie Perliger is the Director of Terrorism Studies at the Combating Terrorism Center and Assistant Professor at the Department of Social Sciences, US Military Academy at West Point. In the past decade Dr. Perliger has studied extensively issues related to Terrorism and Political Violence, Politics of Security, Politics of the Far Right in Israel, Europe and the US, and Middle Eastern Politics.



[1] Leonard Weinberg and William Eubank, “Political parties and the formation of terrorist groups,” Terrorism and Political Violence, Vol. 2, No. 2 (1990),, pp. 125-144.

[2] Leonard Weinberg, “Turning to Terror: The Conditions under Which Political Parties Turn to Terrorist Activities,” Comparative Politics, Vol. 23 (July 1991), pp. 423-438.

[3] Evidence for renewed attention to related questions comes from the number of papers being presented at recent political science conferences on topics related to political parties and terrorist groups, as well as from the number of dissertations being written on related topics.

[4] Leonard Weinberg, Ami Pedahzur, and Arie Perliger, Political Parties and Terrorist Groups (New York: Routledge, 2008).

[5] See, for instance, Alan Ware, Political Parties and Party Systems (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996), pp. 1-6.

[6] Robert A. Dahl, Democracy (New Haven: Yale University, 1998); Weinberg, “Turning to Terror,” p. 423.

[7] Alex Schmid and Albert Jongman, Political Terrorism: A New Guide to Actors, Authors, Concepts, Data Bases, Theories, and Literature (New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction, 1988), first chapter; Bruce Hoffman, Inside Terrorism (New York: Columbia University Press, 2006), p. 41.

[8] Weinberg, Pedahzur, and Perliger, Political Parties and Terrorist Groups, p. 4.

[9] Ware, Political Parties and Party Systems, p. 5.

[10] See also Weinberg, Pedahzur, and Perliger, Political Parties and Terrorist Groups, p. 5.

[11] See, for instance, Weinberg, Pedahzur, and Perliger, Political Parties and Terrorist Groups, pp. 1-5; see also Angelo Panebianco, Political Parties: Organization and Behavior (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988), pp. 3-20.

[12] See, for instance, Weinberg, “Turning to Terror,” for a typology of party-terror linkages derived from the identification of cases of such linkages.

[13] Weinberg and Eubank, “Political parties and the formation of terrorist groups;” Weinberg, “Turning to Terror, pp. 436-437.

[14] Weinberg, Pedahzur, and Perliger, Political Parties and Terrorist Groups, p. 175 (footnote 10).

[15]  Orlandrew E. Danzell,. “Political Parties: When Do They Turn to Terror?” Journal of Conflict Resolution, Vol. 55, No. 1 (2011), p. 101.

[16] Weinberg and Eubank, Political parties and the formation of terrorist groups.

[17] Weinberg, “Turning to Terror,” pp. 436-437.

[18] Leonard Weinberg (ed.), Political Parties and Terrorist Groups, London: Frank Cass, 1992; Leonard Weinberg and Ami Pedahzur, Political Parties and Terrorist Groups (New York: Routledge, 2003); Weinberg, Pedahzur, and Perliger, Political Parties and Terrorist Groups, p. 175 (footnote 10).

[19] Weinberg, Pedahzur, and Perliger, Political Parties and Terrorist Groups.

[20] Danzell, “Political Parties,” pp. 85-105,

[21] Ibid., 86-87.

[22] Jeroen Gunning, “Peace with Hamas? The transforming potential of political participation,” International Affairs, Vol. 80, No. 2 (2004), pp. 233-255.

[23] Are Hovdenak, “Hamas in transition: The failure of sanctions,” Democratization, Vol. 16, No. 1 (2009), pp. 59-80.

[24] Krista E. Wiegand, “Reformation of a Terrorist Group: Hezbollah as a Lebanese Political Party,” Studies in Conflict and Terrorism, Vol. 32, No. 8 (2009), pp. 669-680.

[25] Ibid.

[26] This includes the contributions by Weinberg and his collaborators, for instance, Weinberg (ed.), Political Parties and Terrorist Groups; Weinberg and Eubank, “Political parties and the formation of terrorist groups;” Weinberg, “Turning to Terror;” and Weinberg, Pedahzur, and Perliger Political Parties and Terrorist Groups; and Danzell, “Political Parties.” 

[27] Audrey Kurth Cronin, “How al-Qaida Ends: The Decline and Demise of Terrorist Groups,” International Security, Vol. 31, No. 1 (2006), pp. 7-48.

[28]Weinberg, Pedahzur, and Perliger, Political Parties and Terrorist Groups.

[29]Alex P. Schmid and Albert J. Jongman, with Michael Stohl, Political Terrorism; MIPT Terrorism K nowledge Database <http://www.tkb.org> (accessed March 23, 2008); Office of the Coordinator of Counter Terrorism <http://www.state.gov/s/ct> (accessed February 22, 2010).

[30] Schmid and Jongman with Stohl, Political Terrorism; Bruce Hoffman, Inside Terrorism (New York: Columbia University Press, 2006). See Weinberg, Pedahzur, and Perliger, Political Parties and Terrorist Groups, p. 28, for an overview of the construction of this dataset.

[31] Ibid.

[32] Weinberg, “Turning to Terror,” p. 430.

[33] Ibid, p. 430.

[34] Weinberg, Pedahzur, and Perliger, Political Parties and Terrorist Groups, p. 28-29.

[35] This typology is presented by Weinberg and Eubank, “Political parties and the formation of terrorist groups” and Weinberg, “Turning to Terror.” It is also the same typology used in Weinberg, Pedahzur, and Perliger, Political Parties and Terrorist Groups.

[36] See Håvard Hegre, Tanja Ellingsen, Scott Gates, and Nils Petter Gleditsch, “Toward a Democratic Civil Peace? Democracy, Political Change, and Civil War, 1816-1992,” American Political Science Review, Vol. 95 (Mar. 2001), pp. 33-48. Interestingly, while both democratic and authoritarian regimes are noted for their counterterrorism capacities, Hegre et al. argue that democracies are inherently more stable than authoritarian regimes, which are more stable than “intermediate regimes.”

[37] William Lee Eubank and Leonard Weinberg, “Does Democracy Encourage Terrorism?” Terrorism and Political Violence, Vol. 6 (Winter 1994), pp. 417-435; Todd Sandler, “On the Relationship between Democracy and Terrorism,” Terrorism and Political Violence, Vol. 7 (Winter 1995), pp. 1-9; William Eubank and Leonard Weinberg, “Terrorism and Democracy: What Recent Events Disclose,” Terrorism and Political Violence, Vol. 10 (Spring 1998), pp. 108-118. See also Leonard Weinberg, William Eubank, and Elizabeth Francis, “The Cost of Terrorism: The Relationship between International Terrorism and Democratic Governance,” Terrorism and Political Violence, Vol. 20 (Summer 2008), pp. 257-270.

[38] Eubank and Weinberg, “Does Democracy Encourage Terrorism?”

[39] Sandler, “On the Relationship between Democracy and Terrorism.”

[40] Eubank and Weinberg, “Terrorism and Democracy: What Recent Events Disclose.”

[41] Erica Chenoweth, “Democratic Competition and Terrorist Activity,” Journal of Politics, Vol. 72 (Jan. 2010), pp. 16-30.

[42] Max Abrahms, “Why Terrorism Does Not Work,” International Security, Vol. 31 (Fall 2006), pp. 42-78.

Max Abrahms. 2007. “Why Democracies Make Superior Counterterrorists.” Security Studies 16(2): 223-253.

[43] David G. Kibble, “Is Democracy a Cure for Terrorism? A Review of Natan Sharansky’s The Case for Democracy: The Power of Freedom to Overcome Tyranny and Terror,” Studies in Conflict and Terrorism, Vol. 29 (Jun. 2006), pp. 383-391.

[44] Monty G. Marshall and Keith Jaggers, “Political Regime Characteristics and Transitions, 1800-2009,” Polity IV Project: Political Regime Characteristics and Transitions, 1800-2009 (College Park, MD: Center for International Development and Conflict Management, University of Maryland, 2011) <http://www.systemicpeace.org/inscr/inscr.htm>.

[45] Polity IV uses the term “mixed regime” to describe regimes that are neither strongly democratic nor strongly authoritarian.

[46] See, for instance, Steven Levitsky and Lucan A. Way, “The Rise of Competitive Authoritarianism,” Journal of Democracy, Vol. 13, No. 2 (2002), pp. 51-65.

[47] Omar G. Encarnación, “Pinochet’s Revenge: Spain Revisits its Civil War,” World Policy Journal, Vol. 24 (Winter 2007), pp. 39-50; for an extensive discussion on the relations between crisis of national integration and legitimacy and the tendency of political parties to adopt violent tactics, refer to Weinberg, Pedahzur, and Perliger, Political Parties and Terrorist Groups, chapter 2.

[48] James A. Piazza, “Draining the Swamp: Democracy Promotion, State Failure, and Terrorism in 19 Middle Eastern Countries,” Studies in Conflict and Terrorism, Vol. 30 (Jun. 2007), pp. 521-539. Piazza also finds that democracies in the Middle East are more likely to experience terrorism; although, it is likely that his observations are influenced, at least in part, by the subset of democracies on which he focuses.

[49] Sara Jackson Wade and Dan Reiter, “Does Democracy Matter? Regime Type and Suicide Terrorism,” Journal of Conflict Resolution, Vol. 51 (Apr. 2007), pp. 329-348.

[50] Hegre et al., “Toward a Democratic Civil Peace? ” See also Errol A. Henderson and J. David Singer, “Civil War in the Post-Colonial World, 1946-92,” Journal of Peace Research, Vol. 37 (May 2000), pp. 275-299; Oskar N. T. Thoms and James Ron, “Do Human Rights Violations Cause Internal Conflict?” Human Rights Quarterly, Vol. 29 (Aug. 2007), pp. 674-705.

[51] Ronald Wintrobe, “Extremism, Suicide Terror, and Authoritarianism,” Public Choice, Vol. 128 (Jul. 2006), pp. 169-195.

[52] Christina Schatzman, “Political Challenge in Latin America: Rebellion and Collective Protest in an Era of Democratization,” Journal of Peace Research, Vol. 42, No. 5 (2005), pp. 291-310. Schatzman offers a somewhat contradictory view, proposing that increases in democracy will lead to increases in violent protest. While there are obvious implications for potential increases in violence categorized as terrorism, Schatzman’s focus on Latin America may suggest that his findings are unique to this region. Although it is recognized that democracies are more politically free and more likely to experience dissent, a further parsing out of the causes and effects of violent protest and a comparison of these findings to explanations of terrorism would be a useful step in the process of reconciling competing views on the value of democracy as a tool for countering political violence.

[53] Leonard Weinberg, Ami Pedahzur, and Arie Perliger, Political Parties and Terrorist Groups (New York: Routledge, 2008), pp.35-36.

[54] William Eubank and Leonard Weinberg, “Terrorism and Democracy: Perpetrators and Victims,” Terrorism and Political Violence, Vol. 13 (Spring 2001), pp. 155-164.

[55] Hegre et al., “Toward a Democratic Civil Peace?”

[56] See, for instance, Thoms et al., “Do Human Rights Violations Cause Internal Conflict?” and Henderson et al., “Civil War in the Post-Colonial World, 1946-92.”

[57] Edward D. Mansfield and Jack Snyder, “Democratization and War,” Foreign Affairs, Vol. 74 (May-Jun. 1995), pp. 79-97.

[58] Hegre et al., “Toward a Democratic Civil Peace;” Thoms et al., “Do Human Rights Violations Cause Internal Conflict?” For a contrasting perspective, see Storm, who argues, in the face of a correlation between authoritarianism and radicalization in the MENA region, that democracy promotion and democratization are tools for reducing, though not necessarily eliminating, terrorism. Lise Storm, “The Persistence of Authoritarianism as a Source of Radicalizaiton in North Africa,” International Affairs, Vol. 85 (Sep. 2009), pp. 997-1013.

[59] Weinberg, Pedahzur, and Perliger, Political Parties and Terrorist Groups.

[60] Weinberg and Eubank, “Terrorism and Democracy: What Recent Events Disclose.”

[61] See also Weinberg, Pedahzur, and Perliger, Political Parties and Terrorist Groups, p. 36.

[62] Rogelio Alonso, “Pathways out of Terrorism in Northern Ireland and the Basque Country: The Misrepresentation of the Irish Model,” Terrorism and Political Violence, Vol. 16 (Win. 2004), pp. 695-713; Garrett O’Boyle, “Theories of Justification and Political Violence: Examples from Four Groups,” Terrorism and Political Violence, Vol. 14 (Summer 2002), pp. 23-46.

[63] Gerald Schneider and Nina Wiesehomeier, “Rules That Matter: Political Institutions and the Diversity-Conflict Nexus,” Journal of Peace Research, Vol. 42 (Mar. 2008), pp. 183-203.

[64] Juan J. Linz, “Presidential or Parliamentary Democracy: Does It Make a Difference?” in Juan J. Linz and Arturo Valenzuela (eds.), The Failure of Presidential Democracy: Comparative Perspectives (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1994), pp. 3-75. See also Schneider and Wiesehomeier, “Rules That Matter.”

[65] See Scott Mainwaring and Matthew S. Shugart, “Juan Linz, Presidentialism, and Democracy: A Critical Appraisal,” Comparative Politics, Vol. 29 (Jul. 1997), pp. 449-471. Mainwaring and Shugart provide a useful critique of Linz’s argument, arguing that presidential systems are not highly rigid and may, in fact, lend stability to a political system. They also observe problems with legitimacy within parliamentary systems and note the potential for coalition formation in presidential systems. Especially relevant to our discussion is their argument regarding the relative importance of party system characteristics, a point to which we turn in the next section.

[66] Schneider and Wiesehomeier, “Rules That Matter.”

[67] Ware, Political Parties and Party Systems, pp. 168-169. See also Giovanni Sartori, “European Political Parties: The Case of Polarized Pluralism,” in Joseph La Palombara and Myron Weinber (eds.), Political Parties and Political Development (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1966), pp. 137-176.

[68] Ware, Political Parties and Party Systems, p. 169; see also Sartori for a description of anti-system parties: Sartori, “European Political Parties,” pp. 148-150.

[69] Weinberg and Pedahzur, Political Parties and Terrorist Groups, pp. 19-20. In addition, Ware elaborates on Sartori’s discussion of centripetal and centrifugal forces within party systems. While centripetal forces can be linked to consensus formation and the gradual alleviation of intergroup tensions, centrifugal tendencies can be linked to a widening of the distance between groups and an increased probability that group interests will not be represented in government. Ware, Political Parties and Party Systems, p. 170. See also Sartori, “European Political Parties.”

[70] Roberta Senechal de la Roche, “Collective Violence as Social Control,” Sociological Forum, Vol. 11 (Mar. 1996), pp. 97-128.

[71] Luis de la Calle Robles, “Fighting for Local Control: Street Violence in the Basque Country,” International Studies Quarterly, Vol. 51 (Jun. 2007), p. 452.

[72] Abdul S. Minty, “South Africa: From Apartheid to Democracy,” Security Dialogue, Vol. 24 (Mar. 1993), pp. 69-84.

[73] Adrienne LeBas, “Polarization as Craft – Party Formation and State Violence in Zimbabwe,” Comparative Politics, Vol. 38 (Jul. 2006), pp. 419-438.

[74] Weinberg, Pedahzur, and Perliger discuss the polarization of party systems during the 1960s and 1970s. See Weinberg, Pedahzur, and Perliger, Political Parties and Terrorist Groups, pp. 42-43.

[75] Ibid.,p. 42-43.

[76] Group characteristics including ideology and organizational structure are among the group characteristics addressed in Weinberg Pedahzur, and Perliger’s Political Parties and Terrorist Groups.

[77] In cases in which a group is less likely to garner support through nonviolent tactics, it does not necessarily follow that the group will be more likely to garner support through violent means. At the same time, there are conditions under which violence has been used for political gain. For instance, violence may be used to evoke overreaction on the part of a government against a target population and, in return, give support to the group. See, for instance, Andrew H. Kydd and Barbara F. Walter, “The Strategies of Terrorism,” International Security Vol. 31, No. 1 (Summer 2006), pp. 49-79.

[78] Weinberg, “Turning to Terror,” pp. 433, 436; Martha Crenshaw, “The Causes of Terrorism,” Comparative Politics, Vol. 13 (Jul. 1981), p. 384.

[79] Wintrobe, “Extremism, Suicide Terror, and Authoritarianism.”

[80] The formation of the Real Irish Republican Army in response to moderation on the part of the Irish Republican Army exemplifies this outcome. See Jonathan Stevenson, “Britain and the IRA: Legacies of Restraint,” in George Kassimeris (ed.), Playing Politics with Terrorism: A User’s Guide (New York: Columbia University Press, 2008).

[81] Weinberg, Pedahzur, and Perliger, Political Parties and Terrorist Groups, Ch. 2.

[82] For Figures 4 and 5, we omit groups lacking a clear ideology and those espousing an ideology other than the four main terrorist group ideologies, which are presented in this figure.

[83] See Audrey Kurth Cronin’s book “How Terrorism Ends,” for an in-depth treatment of the various reasons terrorist campaigns come to an end.  Audrey Kurth Cronin, “How Terrorism Ends:  Understanding the Decline and Demise of Terrorist Campaigns” (Princeton, NJ:  Princeton University Press, 2009).

[84] Weinberg, “Turning to Terror.”

[85] We eliminated political groups that survived less than three years, since these groups had a limited time span within which to shift tactics.

[86] Weinberg, Pedahzur, and Perliger, Political Parties and Terrorist Groups, p. 33.

[87] Ibid. p. 33. See also the debate between Bruce Hoffman and Marc Sageman in the pages of Foreign Affairs. Bruce Hoffman, “The Myth of Grass-Roots Terrorism: Why Osama bin Laden Still Matters,” Foreign Affairs, Vol. 87 (May/Jun. 2008), pp. 133-138; Bruce Hoffman, “The Reality of Grass-Roots Terrorism,” Foreign Affairs, Vol. 87 (Jul./Aug. 2008), pp. 163-165; Marc Sageman, “Does Osama Still Call the Shots? Debating the Containment of Al Qaeda’s leadership,” Foreign Affairs, Vol. 87 (Jul./Aug. 2008), pp. 165-166.

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