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The Role of Elections in Authoritarian Regimes

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Abstract:

In this paper, I explain why dictators so often rely on parties and hold elections. I will focus on elections during “normal” times, not elections forced on dictators by international financial institutions or occupying forces. I hypothesize that authoritarian leaders create and use parties and hold elections, despite the risks and costs of doing so, because they help to solve problems of intra-regime conflict that might otherwise unseat them. I suggest that dictators create and use parties primarily to counterbalance the power of the military. Because of its control of weapons and men, the military is always a potential threat, especially to dictators who have arisen from the officer corps themselves. A mass party organized to support the dictator or the regime decreases the likelihood of public acquiescence in the overthrow of the dictator because party militants have both an interest in mobilizing popular protests and the kinds of networks that make quick mobilization possible. Parties provide their militants with benefits that give them a stake in the regime. The same logic applies to elections. Elections are routinized, predictable, and less risky means for authoritarian rulers to demonstrate popular support, or at least acquiescence, and thus to deter challenges from intra-regime rivals. The paper uses simple game theory to show the logic of party creation from the dictator’s point of view. Evidence on the incidence of parties and elections comes from more than 170 post-World War II authoritarian regimes.

Most Common Document Word Stems:

parti (210), regim (133), elect (106), support (82), dictat (77), authoritarian (64), coup (59), militari (55), leader (53), power (52), creat (50), opposit (46), govern (37), use (34), citizen (33), offic (33), hold (31), organ (30), one (30), rule (30), mobil (27),

Author's Keywords:

dictatorship, parties, authoritarian, elections, single-party
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Name: American Political Science Association
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MLA Citation:

Geddes, Barbara. "The Role of Elections in Authoritarian Regimes" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Political Science Association, Marriott Wardman Park, Omni Shoreham, Washington Hilton, Washington, DC, Sep 01, 2005 <Not Available>. 2013-12-17 <http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p41799_index.html>

APA Citation:

Geddes, B. , 2005-09-01 "The Role of Elections in Authoritarian Regimes" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Political Science Association, Marriott Wardman Park, Omni Shoreham, Washington Hilton, Washington, DC Online <PDF>. 2013-12-17 from http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p41799_index.html

Publication Type: Conference Paper/Unpublished Manuscript
Review Method: Peer Reviewed
Abstract: In this paper, I explain why dictators so often rely on parties and hold elections. I will focus on elections during “normal” times, not elections forced on dictators by international financial institutions or occupying forces. I hypothesize that authoritarian leaders create and use parties and hold elections, despite the risks and costs of doing so, because they help to solve problems of intra-regime conflict that might otherwise unseat them. I suggest that dictators create and use parties primarily to counterbalance the power of the military. Because of its control of weapons and men, the military is always a potential threat, especially to dictators who have arisen from the officer corps themselves. A mass party organized to support the dictator or the regime decreases the likelihood of public acquiescence in the overthrow of the dictator because party militants have both an interest in mobilizing popular protests and the kinds of networks that make quick mobilization possible. Parties provide their militants with benefits that give them a stake in the regime. The same logic applies to elections. Elections are routinized, predictable, and less risky means for authoritarian rulers to demonstrate popular support, or at least acquiescence, and thus to deter challenges from intra-regime rivals. The paper uses simple game theory to show the logic of party creation from the dictator’s point of view. Evidence on the incidence of parties and elections comes from more than 170 post-World War II authoritarian regimes.

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Document Type: PDF
Page count: 20
Word count: 10399
Text sample:
Preliminary draft. Please do not quote. Why Parties and Elections in Authoritarian Regimes? Barbara Geddes Department of Political Science UCLA Los Angeles California 90095-1472 Geddes@ucla.edu Keywords: Authoritarian dictator party elections Prepared for presentation at the annual meeting of the American Political Science Association Washington DC 2005 Why Parties and Elections in Authoritarian Regimes? Although parties and elections are thought of as defining characteristics of democracy most authoritarian governments also rely on political parties and hold elections. Theories of democratic
19 Table 3 Reliance on Parties and Method of Achieving Power Regime achieved Party formed in Allied with pre- Created party No parties power by: order to existing party after achieving (percent) achieve power (percent) power (percent) (percent) Revolution Civil War 85 0 12 4 Election 58 24 18 0 Coup 3 15 39 33 20


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